My mother was recently diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration. What can I do to reduce my risk?

Wet age-related macular degeneration, an eye condition that can significantly affect your central vision, does have a hereditary, or genetic, component. Because you have a family member who has the condition, it does increase your risk. Although you can't control your genes, you can take other steps to reduce your risk.

Stop smoking

If you smoke, the single best thing you can do to reduce your risk of macular degeneration is to stop smoking. And if you don't smoke, don't start. Exposure to cigarette smoke doubles the risk of macular degeneration.

The good news is, if you smoke and quit, you may still be able to reduce your risk over time. Some research suggests that after 20 years of not smoking, a previous smoker's risk of age-related macular degeneration is about the same as someone who never smoked.

Make healthy lifestyle choices

The following measures also may help reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Include dark, leafy greens, multicolored vegetables, fruits, nuts and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon. Limit foods high in saturated fat such as meat and butter.
  • Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly. If you need to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat and increase the amount of exercise you get each day. Then maintain a healthy weight by exercising regularly and controlling your diet.

Get routine eye exams

Ask your eye doctor how often you need routine eye exams. A routine dilated eye exam can identify early signs of macular degeneration so you can talk about what you'll need to do to preserve your vision. In between checkups, your doctor may recommend that you use certain self-assessment tools that can track and identify changes to your central vision.


Kevin D. Chodnicki, M.D.

Sept. 21, 2023 See more Expert Answers