Rate of Age-related Macular Degeneration Among Smokers Significantly Greater Than Non- Smokers
COLUMBUS – Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is an eye disease that affects more than 1.65 million Americans over the age of 50. AMD has no cure, although several new promising treatments are currently being tested that have shown promising results in halting the progression of the disease for some.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration creates a loss of sharp central vision. There are two forms: wet and dry -which is the most common form. The exact cause of AMD is unknown. Currently, 71, 113 Ohioans have AMD. By the year 2030, 142, 226 will have AMD if nothing is done to curb its growth. Risk factors include: race (more common in Caucasian populations), smoking, obesity, gender (women are more likely to have AMD than men), and family history.
Recent studies have shown that one way to reduce the risk of developing AMD is by not smoking. A study published in the British Medical Journal from the University ofManchester found that smokers were three to four times more likely to develop AMD than non smokers. And, non smokers living with smokers almost double their risk of developing AMD.
Fortunately, the research also showed that former smokers who had quit for over 20 years had the same risk level of those who had never smoked. Smoking impairs the effects of antioxidants, which then damage the retina.
In a recent survey commissioned by AMD Alliance International, only 32 percent of respondents who had heard of AMD were aware of the link between AMD and smoking. In addition to AMD, smoking has been linked to increases in the cases of cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy.
“We’ve all known for years that smoking is bad for our health,” said Sherill K. Williams, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio. “But some people may not know that besides being a risk factor for cancer, heart disease and a host of other health problems, smoking is also linked to vision loss.”
Prevent Blindness Ohio has designated February as Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness Month in an effort to educate the public on the disease and what steps can be taken to avoid it. “We also want to remind everyone, whether they are smokers or not, that the most effective way to fight the effects of AMD is through healthy lifestyles and regular, professional eye exams. ,” added Williams.
Healthy habits can help preserve healthy eyes. The risk of eye disease and vision loss can be lowered if you:
- Don’t smoke
- Eat healthy foods (including green leafy vegetables and foods high in zinc, vitamins C and E, and beta carotene)
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol
- Stay active
- Visit your eye care professional on a regular basis
For free information on AMD, please visit Prevent Blindness Ohio at www.pbohio.org or call 800-301-2020.