Oxidative stress and macular degeneration

Our bodies constantly react with the oxygen in our environment. Over our lifetimes, as a result of this activity, our bodies produce tiny molecules called free radicals. These free radicals affect our cells, sometimes damaging them. This is called oxidative stress and is thought to play a major role in how macular degeneration develops. Approximately 1 in 3 Caucasians have genetic changes that make them more prone to damage from oxidative stress, which can lead to macular degeneration.

Macular degeneration in families

Heredity is another risk factor for macular degeneration. People who have a close family member with the disease have a greater chance of developing macular degeneration themselves.

Inflammation and macular degeneration

Some studies have shown that inflammation (swelling of the body’s tissues) may play a role in macular degeneration development. Inflammation is the way the body’s immune system fights off infection or other things it considers “invaders.” But an overactive immune system with its associated inflammation may be a risk factor for macular degeneration.

Smoking, high blood pressure and abnormal cholesterol and macular degeneration

Smoking and high blood pressure are associated with the wet form of macular degeneration. Research also suggests there may be a link between being obese and having early or intermediate-stage macular degeneration develop into the advanced (wet) form.

Another risk factor for developing macular degeneration may include having abnormal cholesterol levels or having high blood pressure (called hypertension).

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Reviewed by Dr. Raj Maturi on Sept. 1, 2013

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