The 31st May was World No Tobacco Day, and we would like to point out in our blog that smoking also has a direct relationship with eye health as it can cause macular degeneration.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive disease that mainly affects people of over 50 years of age and, is caused by exposure to risk factors and/or genetic predisposition. The main risk factor is age, followed by genetic predisposition, factors that we cannot do anything about. However, the third biggest risk factor is smoking and this is something we can change, so it is very important that smokers are aware of this.
AMD is considered the leading cause of legal blindness (visual acuity less than 1/10) in people of over 50 in the western world and it is becoming more common due to an increasing ageing population. Data from epidemiological studies estimate prevalence rates for this disease from 0.2% to 5.4% for people of between 60 and 85 years of age and from 12% to 30.8% in people of 85 or older.
It is a highly disabling disease as the area of the retina most affected is the macula; this leads to a gradual loss of central vision, a fact that causes difficulties for the patient in multiple physical, social and emotional areas.
Smoking, as we discussed earlier is the most important modifiable environmental risk factor associated with AMD and multiple studies have shown a higher prevalence of the disease and an increased risk of progression of the disease in active smokers with a corresponding worse response to treatment. Smokers have a relative risk 2.4 times higher than non-smokers and if the smokers are also carriers of genetic risk factors the risk increases up to 34 times.