Smoking greatly increases your chance of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which leads to severe and irreversible sight-loss, according to an article published in the Royal College of Ophthalmologist's journal Eye (Vol. 19, No. 9) (Also published online 7th September 2005).
AMD is the most common cause of visual impairment in the western world; over 200,000 people suffer from the disease in the UK alone. Treatments are costly and at best only slow an inevitable progression. This means that the identification of any modifiable risk factor - such as smoking - is of great importance.
Simon Kelly and colleagues reviewed 17 studies of the association between smoking and AMD and found that in 13 of these smokers were significantly more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. They also suggest that heavier smokers are at higher risk, and that the risk is lower for ex-smokers - indicating that the negative effects can be at least partly reversed by giving up.
Kelly and colleagues also present, in a separate paper, evidence from a survey at Bolton Hospital NHS trust suggesting that the general public remain largely unaware that smoking can lead to loss of vision. Importantly, their findings also indicate that fear of blindness may provide as much of a motivation to quit as that of well-established smoking-related conditions such as lung cancer and heart disease.
The strength of evidence presented in Kelly's review, and the conclusions of the subsequent clinical study, leave little doubt that action should be taken to raise awareness of the link between smoking and sight loss.
Mr Simon Kelly (Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Bolton Hospitals NHS Trust, Bolton, UK)
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Amy Deacon (Assistant Editor - Academic Journals, Nature Publishing Group, London, UK)
Abstracts available online: Paper 1; Paper 2.
(C) Eye press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza