Stop smoking or lose sight

Tobacco use can aggravate age-related macular degeneration: Study

Stop smoking or lose sight

Smoking is found to be the second-most common risk factor for age-related macular degeneration apart from old age.  Getty Images

Researchers of the University of California have said that smoking increases the risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in people over 65.

“The take-home message is that it’s never too late to quit smoking,” said lead author Dr Anne Coleman.

“We found that even older people’s eyes will benefit from kicking the habit.”
AMD causes progressive damage to the macula, the centre of the retina that allows us to see fine details, The American Journal of Ophthalmology reported.

Worrisome effects

When the macula degenerates, people experience darkness or blurring in their central vision, preventing them from being able to read, drive and recognise faces, the study found.

Smoking is the second most common risk factor for AMD apart from old age, it added.
To determine whether age influences the effects of smoking on AMD risk, the researchers followed a group of 1,958 women who underwent retinal photographs at five-year intervals, starting with a baseline exam at age 78. Four per cent, or 75 of the women, said they smoked.

Women more hit

“We saw a slightly higher rate of AMD in women after age 80, but the rate was dramatically higher in older women who smoked,” said Coleman.

“The bottom line is that age-related macular degeneration risk increases with age. And if you smoke, your risk of developing the disease rises even more.”

Cigarette smoking has been said to increase age-related macular degeneration risk by reducing serum antioxidant levels, altering blood flow to the eyes and decreasing retinal pigments. “This study provides yet another compelling reason to stop smoking and suggests that it is never too late to quit,” said Dr Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute.

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