Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Puffing away greatly increases risk of blindness later in life

THURSDAY, March 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- People who smoke are up to four times more likely to suffer blindness later in life from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than nonsmokers, says a study in this week's British Medical Journal.

Many smokers are unaware of this increased risk for AMD, which results in severe irreversible loss of central vision and is the most common cause of adult blindness.

The study says one in five cases of AMD in the United Kingdom may be attributable to smoking. That translates into about 54,000 people over age 69 with possible smoking-related AMD. Nearly 18,000 of those people are blind.

Kicking the habit slows the development of AMD, while continued smoking may affect a person's long-term response to treatments such as laser therapy, the study says.

The study authors recommend a sustained public health campaign in England to increase awareness about the link between smoking and AMD. They also recomment that cigarette packs be labeled with more novel, varied and specific warnings about the impact of smoking on eyesight.

More information

Prevent Blindness America has more about AMD.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, March 4, 2004
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