Smoking Increases Risk of Blindness In Old Age

AMD causes a darkening and/or blurring of central vision, and prevents you from being able to read, drive and recognize people you know. It is a progressive degeneration of the macula, the centre of the retina, the part of the membrane inside the back of the eye that allows us to see fine details.

Advanced AMD with loss of vision affects about 1.75 million Americans: this figure is expected to rise to just under 3 million by 2020 according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance.  “Smoking is the second most common risk factor for AMD; age is the first,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the trade group.  “The medical experts show it is never too late to find a reason to quit.” 

Researchers at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and colleagues wanted to find out whether age was linked to the effect of smoking on AMD risk.  The research provides the first accurate snapshot of how smoking affects AMD risk later in life.

For the study, researchers compared the retinal photographs of nearly 2,000 women taken at age 78 and 83, looked for signs of AMD and then did logistical regression statistical tests to find out whether smoking affected the women’s risk of developing the disease.

They found that smokers had 11 per cent higher rates of AMD than the non-smokers of the same age.  But among those over age 80, the smokers were 5.5 times more likely to develop AMD than the non-smokers.

The findings were published in the January issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

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