The exact cause of macular degeneration is not known though there are several known risk factors including advanced age, family history of the condition and poor diet, according to Mayo Clinic. Obesity, cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol have also been associated with macular degeneration.
WebMD says that macular degeneration is caused by deterioration in the retina and results in significantly impaired vision. According to the site, there are two types of age-related macular degeneration: wet and dry. Dry macular degeneration is the most common, and is marked by the presence of deposits called drusin in the macula. Dry macular degeneration can develop into the wet variety, which causes more severe vision problems due to abnormal growth of blood cells near the macula.
The exact reason for the breakdown of retinal tissue is not known, but according to the Macular Degeneration Partnership there are several things people can do to slow the process. Eating foods rich in antioxidants can help, as can getting plenty of exercise and taking a quality multivitamin each day. The nonprofit partnership lists smoking, high blood pressure and high cholesterol as major risk factors for developing macular degeneration. It also suggests using quality sunglasses to protect against harmful UV rays, which can cause damage to the retina. Eyes that are already injured are more susceptible to developing macular degeneration.