Smoking and eye health

1st March 2008
A study in the British Medical Journal says cigarettes increase the chances of developing age-related macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of adult blindness in the UK, affecting around 500,000 people. It results in severe and irreversible loss of central vision, especially in people over the age of 60.

Around 54,000 people in the UK have AMD as a direct result of smoking. Of these, they said 17,800 are completely blind.

Ophthalmic surgeon Simon Kelly says: “Evidence indicates that more than a quarter of all cases of AMD with blindness or visual impairment are attributable to current or past exposure to smoking’’.

“People fear losing their sight more than any other sense’’, said Anita Lightstone, The Royal Institute for the Blind (RNIB) Head of Eye Health.

With this in mind, the researchers are calling for a sustained public health campaign to raise awareness of the link between smoking and blindness, as well as more commonly known risks such as cancer.

Cigarette packets already carry severe health warnings about the dangers of smoking, but they don’t mention that smoking can cause blindness.
IS it too late to Quit?
The benefits of quitting smoking are very real. Studies have shown that people who stopped smoking 20 years ago have a similar risk of developing AMD as non-smokers, and that the risk starts to decrease after ten years of not smoking. Quitting can also affect the long-term response to treatments such as laser therapy.

The facts about smoking and AMD

* 13 million smokers in the UK are doubling their chances of sight loss in later life according to research published by the RNIB.
* The link between smoking and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is now as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer.
* AMD is the UK’s leading cause of sight loss. Around 500,000 people in the UK have AMD and an estimated 54,000 people have the condition as a result of smoking.
* A report published by AMD Alliance UK, reveals that only 7% of people know that smoking affects the eyes, but that seven out of ten smokers would either stop smoking permanently or cut down if they thought it could harm their eyesight.

There are many ways to stop smoking; willpower, patches, gum, hypnotherapy, acupuncture and even a revolutionary therapy called bioresonance to name but a few. What you need to do is to look in to each therapy and see which one suits you the best. But make sure that you’re really ready to quit, as willpower will be your greatest tool to success.

www.fvfl.org.uk

References
1. www.rnib.org.uk
2. Smoking could ruin your eyesight; news.bbc.co.uk Friday, 5 March, 2004
3. www.bmj.com
4. www.newash.org.uk/

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