Are Women at Higher Risk for Macular Degeneration?Apr 17, 2014
Interviewer: Are women more likely to get macular degeneration than men? We'll examine that next on The Scope.
Announcer: Medical news and research from University of Utah physicians and specialists you can use for a happier and healthier life. You're listening to The Scope.
Interviewer: Dr. Margaret DeAngelis is at the Moran Eye Institute. She also is on the Utah Women's Eye Health Board. Let's talk about women and macular degeneration. Maybe I'm wrong on this. I kind of thought generally it was men that got it, but that's not the case.
Dr. Margaret DeAngelis: No. Women, it's actually been shown, in two studies done ten years apart from each other in what's called a meta analysis where you combine all the studies that are out there, that women are at higher risk of getting age-related macular degeneration than men. Now, why is that you might ask.
Interviewer: Why is that?
Dr. Margaret DeAngelis: Why is that? Well, we're not sure. So some people, some groups have looked at that it may be due to hormone replacement therapy or estrogen that increases one's risk so certain groups are studying that. Some groups have found an association while other groups have not so there's a lack of consistency from study to study. So we still don't have the answer for why women are at risk. Some people have argued that maybe women are more inclined to join studies, to sign up for studies, but that hasn't been the answer either. Or maybe women smoke more cigarettes or these other things, but after you've controlled for all these external factors, there hasn't been the answer there so we're still looking for the reason for why women are at a slightly higher risk. And we do know that genetics plays a strong role but that is equally so in men and women so what that means is if you have a first degree relative, either a parent or a sibling, a brother or sister, with age-related macular degeneration, you're at six to twelve times higher risk than somebody from the general population of getting age-related macular degeneration yourself. So it's highly recommended if you have a family member with age-related macular degeneration you should get your eyes checked age 50 and over at least once a year.
Interviewer: Six to twelve times more. Put that in perspective for me in relation to other things like smoking which has also been shown to cause macular degeneration or a relationship. How much does that increase my risk?
Dr. Margaret DeAngelis: It depends. Different groups including our group have shown that that's based on the number of pack year so if you smoked a pack of cigarettes a day for one year, the more cigarettes you've smoked or pack years your risk increases exponentially, and smoking by everybody has been shown to increase risk.
Interviewer: Got you.
Dr. Margaret DeAngelis: Please understand that that increases your risk, you're susceptibility. It doesn't mean that you will get the disease because you have a first degree relative or you smoked cigarettes. It means your susceptibility has increased. That's a difference between susceptibility and causality.
Interviewer: Is the direct relative susceptibility? Are we talking susceptibility if I have a first...?
Dr. Margaret DeAngelis: We're talking it increases your susceptibility, correct.
Interviewer: How significant is six to twelve times more susceptible? Put that in a perspective for me. Is it like, "Oh wow, that's a lot. That's frightening. Like you should go see the eye doctor right now."
Dr. Margaret DeAngelis: Six to twelve is a lot. If you're 50 years old and older, the American Academy of Ophthamology recommends that.
Announcer: We're your daily dose of science, conversation, medicine. This is The Scope, the University of Utah Health Sciences radio.