It's never too late to quit smoking and save your vision

Dec 31, 2009

Need a little extra incentive to kick the habit? Just in time for New Year's resolutions, a UCLA study finds that even after age 80, smoking continues to increase one's risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65.

The publishes the findings in its January edition.

"The take-home message is that it's never too late to quit smoking," said lead author Dr. Anne Coleman, professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA. "We found that even older people's eyes will benefit from kicking the habit."

AMD causes progressive damage to the macula, the center of the that allows us to see fine details. When the macula degenerates, people experience darkness or blurring in their central vision, preventing them from being able to read, drive and recognize faces.

After age, smoking is the second most common risk factor for AMD. This study sought to determine whether age influences the effects of smoking on AMD risk.

Coleman and her colleagues followed a group of 1,958 who underwent retinal photographs at five-year intervals, starting with a baseline exam at age 78. Four percent, or 75 of the women, smoked.

The researchers compared the retinal images at ages 78 and 83 to check for the appearance of AMD, and evaluate whether smoking affected the women's likelihood of developing the disease.

"Age is the strongest predictor for AMD, yet most of the research in this field has been conducted in people younger than 75," explained Coleman. "Our population was considerably older than those previously studied. This research provides the first accurate snapshot of how smoking affects AMD risk later in life."

Overall, women who smoked had 11 percent higher rates of AMD than other women their same age. In women over 80, however, those who smoked were 5.5 times more likely to develop AMD than women their age who did not smoke.

"We saw a slightly higher rate of AMD in women after age 80, but the rate was dramatically higher in older women who smoked," said Coleman. "The bottom line is that AMD risk increases with age. And if you smoke, your risk of developing the disease rises even more."

Cigarette smoking has been hypothesized to increase AMD risk by reducing serum antioxidant levels, altering blood flow to the eyes and decreasing retinal pigments.

"This study provides yet another compelling reason to stop and suggests that it is never too late to quit," said Dr. Paul Sieving, director of the National Eye Institute.

Explore further: Electronic health records tied to shorter time in ER

Provided by University of California - Los Angeles

4 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Smoking hikes blinding disease risk

Jul 11, 2006

U.S. scientists say they've determined smoking hikes the risk of age-related macular degeneration, while use of omega-3 fatty acids decreases that risk.

Studies: Fish oil helps vision

Jul 11, 2006

U.S. and Australian researchers have found that fish oil helps save vision as one ages but cigarette smoking increases the risk of blindness.

Recommended for you

Electronic health records tied to shorter time in ER

Sep 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—Length of emergency room stay for trauma patients is shorter with the use of electronic health records, according to a study published in the September issue of the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

CDC: Almost everyone needs a flu shot

Sep 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—Less than half of all Americans got a flu shot last year, so U.S. health officials on Thursday urged that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated for the coming flu season. "It's really unfortunate ...

User comments : 0