Smokers 'twice as likely to lose their sight in later life'
The link between smoking and loss of sight in later life is as conclusive as the habit's connection to lung cancer, a new study claims.
The link between smoking and loss of sight in later life is as conclusive as the habitâ€™s connection to lung cancer, a new study claims.
An analysis of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) â€” a condition which affects half a million Britons and can lead to blindness â€” and smoking offers further evidence of the damage that it can do to eyesight.
A report published in April suggested that people who smoke are twice as likely as non-smokers to lose their sight as they grow older.
AMD is the leading cause of sight loss in Britain, with an estimated 54,000 people suffering from the condition as a result of smoking.
A retrospective review of 17 AMD studies by British ophthalmologists has found that two thirds of the papers show clear links between smoking and the condition.
Simon Kelly, a consultant ophthalmic surgeon at the Bolton eye unit, said that the scientific evidence was sufficiently strong to prove that smoking causes AMD. The causality criteria used were the same as those applied to proving the link between smoking and lung cancer.
A report by the AMD Alliance, also published today, has uncovered widespread ignorance about the condition and its potential threat to smokers.
A survey of more than a thousand people, published in association with the Royal National Institute of the Blind, found that only 7 per cent knew that AMD affected the eyes.
But seven out of ten smokers would either stop smoking permanently or cut down if they thought that their habit could harm their eyesight.
Pauline Edwards, 50, from Salford, Greater Manchester, said that she had smoked for most of her adult life but would have stopped if she had been aware of the link with sight loss. She added: â€œI smoked for years. Now I have AMD, am partially sighted in one eye and am likely to go blind.
â€œWhen you smoke you cannot imagine what it is like to have lung cancer and especially when you are young the risk of dying earlier doesnâ€™t come into it. Iâ€™m a nurse, I saw people die from smoking-related diseases and that didnâ€™t make me quit.
â€œBut, if I had been told that I could lose my sight, I would have given up. I stopped the day I found out.â€
Steve Winyard, the head of campaigns at the RNIB and chairman of AMD Alliance UK, said: â€œSmoking is the only proven cause of AMD that people can do anything about, yet people are not aware of the link and most people have not even heard of the condition.
â€œThe message is simple; do not take up smoking and, if you do, stop. People also need to have regular eye tests to check their eyes are healthy. An eye test can save your sight.â€
The RNIB is calling on the Government to introduce warnings on cigarette packets about the risk of AMD.