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I wanted to learn more about macular degeneration after a recent visit to the ophthalmologist, and I found what I was looking for in less than fifteen minutes by searching eLibrary Minnesota, MNLINK, Ebooks Minnesota, and the Minnesota Digital Library.

A photo of sunglasses with an elongated shadow from the bright sun.

Macular degeneration is a frightening prospect for many Americans, particularly those who have seen its effects in a loved one. After a recent visit to the ophthalmologist, I set out to learn more about it using Minitex’s online resources. I’m not a doctor, and this information isn’t intended as medical advice. But I am a curious citizen and I want to be well-informed. I was impressed by what I found in less than fifteen minutes using online library resources available to all Minnesotans.

On Ebooks Minnesota, I found a great book for early readers, Our Eyes Can See. I also found a helpful resource from MNLINK, Vision loss : strategies for living with hope and independence, available as an audiobook. A search of the Minnesota Digital Library turned up historical photos of eye clinics from the Martin County Historical Society and the Hennepin Medical History Center.

I turned to eLibrary Minnesota for more detailed information. The Student Research portal led me to Britannica’s online encyclopedia for high school students and, for journal articles, to Academic Search Premier and Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Navigating through the News & Magazine Resources portal allowed me to find more easily digestible information from The New York Times and Maclean’s. Citations for the resources I found on ELM are listed at the end of the article.

What is Macular Degeneration?

The macula is a quarter-inch-wide portion of the retina located at the back of the eye, near the optic nerve. It’s the part of the eye that enables acute, central vision. People with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) lose their central vision, but usually keep their peripheral vision. AMD comes in two forms, commonly referred to as "wet" and "dry." The "wet" form advances quickly and results from an overabundance of blood vessels, while the "dry" form progresses more slowly and is caused by the atrophy and death of cells in the macula. Sometimes “dry” AMD progresses to become the more aggressive “wet” form.

what risk factors are associated with Macular Degeneration?

AMD is the most common cause of vision loss in the United States. It's most prevalent among people of European descent, accounting for 54 percent of vision loss in the non-Hispanic white population. AMD causes 14 percent of vision loss in the Hispanic population and 4 percent in the African American population. It's more common in women than men. 

Genetic inheritance is associated with AMD, but there are factors we can control as well. Current smokers are more than three times as likely to suffer from AMD than non-smokers. There is also a correlation between diet and the risk of acquiring AMD. On the plus side, there is an 18-percent risk reduction associated with the consumption of 1-5 servings of fish per week. There is a 20-percent increase in risk associated with the consumption of 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day, however. Meat consumption (3.5-7 servings per week) is also associated with increased risk (17 percent), though only with regard to early-onset AMD. No correlations were found for any other food group.

Is treatment available?

The biggest risk factor for AMD is unavoidable: getting older. The good news is that recent breakthroughs have shown that, with early detection, effective treatment for “wet” AMD is available. This is through the injection of “anti-vascular endothelial growth factor” (anti-VEGF) directly into the eye. Anti-VEGF slows down the overgrowth of blood vessels that causes “wet” AMD, preserving the patient’s vision and sometimes even improving it. While there’s no treatment for “dry” AMD just yet, vitamin supplements are available that can reduce the likelihood that it progresses to the “wet” form. Those same vitamins can reduce by 25 percent the likelihood that individuals at high risk for AMD will ever acquire it.


Dinu, Monica, et al. “Food Groups and Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis.” European Journal of Nutrition, vol. 58, no. 5, Aug. 2019, pp. 2123–43. EBSCOhost,

"Macular degeneration." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 15 Feb. 2019.
Accessed 13 May. 2022.

McCourt, D. F. “No One-Size-Fits-All Treatment for Macular Degeneration.” Maclean’s, May 2016, p. 62. EBSCOhost,

McGuinness, Myra B., et al. “Survival Bias When Assessing Risk Factors for Age-Related Macular Degeneration: A Tutorial with Application to the Exposure of Smoking.” Ophthalmic Epidemiology, vol. 24, no. 4, Aug. 2017, pp. 229–38. EBSCOhost,

Weintraub, Karen. "Ask Well: A Cure for Macular Degeneration?" ProQuest, Oct 22, 2015,

Written by

Zach Miller
Head of Communications