Facts Are Clear On Smoking Risk
Health Reporter A MERSEYSIDE eye doctor has backed warnings that smoking could lead to blindness.
Dr David Wong, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon from Royal Liverpool hospital, says smokers have a higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration AMD.
His statement follows a report by researchers from Manchester University and Bolton NHS Trust who have published work showing smokers are four times as likely to become blind through the condition.
AMD is the most common cause of adult blindness and results in severe and irreversible loss of central vision. Dr Wong said: "Stopping smoking is the most important single thing you can do to prevent blindness.
"The report from the researchers is quite true. The number of cigarettes you smoke affects the eyes and effectively increases the chances of developing AMD."
Researchers estimate that one in five AMD cases in the UK may be attributable to smoking.
They estimated that 53,900 people in the UK over the age of 69 may have visual impairment due to AMD linked to smoking. Of these,17,800 were completely blind.
Campaigns have highlighted the fact that smokers face a higher risk of cancer.
But researchers now want a public health campaign to raise awareness of the link between smoking and blindness.
They said there was evidence that giving up smoking helped reduce the risk of AMD in later life.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, the authors said: "Observational studies show a protective effect of smoking cessation on the development of AMD,as former smokers have an only slightly increased risk of AMD compared with 'neversmokers'."
The researchers said highlighting the finding that smokers develop AMD about 10 years earlier than nonsmokers "could also be a potent message in public awareness campaigns".