Age-related macular disease is a major and growing public health burden in developed Caucasian societies, accounting for about 50% of blind registration. Evidence exists that this is an emerging problem in Eastern Asia, although the phenotype appears to differ from that seen in Western society. It is likely that several genes are involved, and that the genes or allelic variants conferring are common. Environment plays a major role in its pathogenesis, and it is believed that genetic susceptibility becomes apparent only if there are sufficient environmental pressures. There is no therapy currently available that will have an impact on the prevalence of blindness from age-related macular disease. It has been shown that visual loss occurs as a reaction to ageing changes in Bruch's membrane, which is interposed between the choriocapillaris and the retinal pigment epithelium. The age changes in all three structures have been partly characterised, and as a consequence, multiple putative pathogenic mechanisms have been proposed. Cross-sectional studies of populations with different genetic background and life styles would serve to prove the importance of inheritance and environment. Molecular genetic analysis of blood from affected sibling pairs from these sources may indicate the relevant genes, the prevalence of which may differ in different communities. Enquiries as to life styles may determine important environmental influences. Examination of donor eyes from these communities may reveal distinctive features that may reflect the variation in genetic predisposition and environmental pressures. It is hoped that the findings from such studies will lead to novel and potentially successful management strategies.