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HomeminewsCurb Smoking to Save your Sight

Curb Smoking to Save your Sight

People struggling to keep their New Year’s resolution to stop smoking take note – quitting smoking, even late in life, will dramatically reduce your risk of blindness. That’s the urgent message that must get out to smokers everywhere – a message that might just encourage or frighten many smokers into quitting the dangerous habit.

Among other things, smoking is a known risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Australia’s leading cause of vision loss and blindness, with research showing that smokers are three times more likely to develop the disease.

Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) Managing Director Professor Jonathan Crowston said that given there’s no known cure and limited treatment options for AMD, cutting out risk factors like smoking is the best weapon against the disease.

“There’s evidence to suggest that people who quit can actually reverse the risk levels for AMD,” Prof. Crowston said.

“And a study by the University of California Los Angeles found that smoking continues to increase a person’s risk of developing the disease, even after the age of 80. Therefore reducing the risk of blindness should be a strong incentive to quit smoking, even for older people”.

Prof. Crowston said although cigarette packets featured warnings about the risk of blindness caused by smoking, there is still a lack of community awareness.

“The link between smoking and AMD is strong. It’s believed smoking has a toxic effect on the cells in the retina, at the back of the eye and causes the narrowing of retinal blood vessels,” Prof. Crowston said.

“Smoking also inhibits the absorption of antioxidants that are important to eye health and reduces the density of protective macular pigments”.

A joint study by CERA and Access Economics found that AMD costs the nation more than 2.6 billion dollars annually, a figure set to increase as the population ages.

AMD is a progressive disease affecting the macula. 15 per cent of people over 50, or half a million Australians, live with the early stages of the disease.