New research shows that Irish people are more genetically predisposed to Age-related Macular Degeneration, the most common cause of registered blindness in the country.

In the study, over 200 patients with AMD volunteered blood samples, which were compared with normal volunteers for the presence of AMD risk factors.

The research by a team from Trinity College Dublin and the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital found that the genetic risk factors were present in the Irish population at high levels.

Mark Cahill of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital said that many people could possess the genes and never develop the disease, which means that genetic screening is not recommended.

However, early detection is essential to maximise the effectiveness of treatment options.

Mr Cahill said the finding that Irish people are at an elevated risk of developing AMD was crucial to understanding the underlying cause of the condition.

The researchers say that while lifestyle changes, such as ensuring a balanced diet and blood pressure control, can help prevent AMD progression, their data shows that smoking remains the primary risk factor.

Smokers are four times more likely to develop the condition.

AMD is believed to affect one in ten people over the age of 50.

The most obvious symptoms are sudden onset of distortion and blurring in the centre of a person's vision.

The research, which was also directed by Dr Marian Humphries, Department of Genetics at TCD, has been released to coincide with AMD awareness week, which runs until next Sunday.

AMD awareness week is supported by the National Council for the Blind of Ireland and Fighting Blindness.