WEDNESDAY, Dec. 21, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Smoking greatly increases the risk of vision loss due to age-related macular degeneration, and that risk hits both smokers and people who live with them, a new study shows.
Macular degeneration is a progressive eye disease that is the leading cause of partial vision loss and blindness in the United States and many European countries.
Reporting in the current issue of the British Journal of Ophthalmology, researchers studied 435 people with end-stage macular degeneration and 280 people who lived with them.
People who regularly smoked a pack of cigarettes or more a day for 40 years had nearly triple the risk of age-related macular degeneration compared with non-smokers. Smoking increased the risk of both of the two main types of macular degeneration, the researches noted.
However, quitting smoking for 20 years or more reduced the risk to a level comparable with people who'd never smoked.
The study also found that non-smokers who lived with smokers for five years or more had nearly double the risk of age-related macular degeneration.
The macula, located at the center of the retina at the back of the eye, is crucial for the fine central vision necessary for tasks such as driving and reading.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about age-related macular degeneration.