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Wet macular degeneration can be caused by a combination of genetic factors – passed on from your parents – and environmental factors from after your birth1. This means that having a family member with wet macular degeneration increases your likelihood of developing the disease.
Genes contain the instructions that cells need to function, like the recipe a chef needs to prepare a meal. Just as typos in a recipe may lead to a different meal than planned, mistakes in genes may result in disease, including wet macular degeneration.
The genetics of wet macular degeneration are not well understood. Over 30 genes have been linked to wAMD, but only a few have a strong connection with it1-3. Those genes are called CFH, ARMS2 and HTRA11-3. Therefore the risk for wet macular degeneration may increase if the person has altered versions of these genes1-3.
If you have a close family member with wet macular degeneration or know that it runs in your family, you may want to consider genetic testing to determine whether you are at increased risk. Additionally, you can focus on a healthy lifestyle and avoid habits that can increase your risk, like smoking.
Early treatment for macular degeneration can help slow the progression of the disease, so knowing your risk can help your doctors watch for the signs and recognize macular degeneration. Talk to your doctor to determine whether genetic testing is appropriate.