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Link Between Smoking and AMD (Age-Related Macular Degeneration)

The link between smoking and AMD (age-related macular degeneration) is now as robust as the link between smoking and lung cancer, yet few people are aware of the link or even of AMD.

AMD is the UK’s leading cause of sight loss – there are around 500,000 people in the UK with AMD – and an estimated 54,000 people have the condition as a result of smoking.

Pauline Edwards, 50, from Salford, has AMD after smoking most of her adult life.

EyesPauline said: “I smoked for years. Now I have AMD, am partially sighted in one eye and am likely to go blind.

When you smoke you cannot imagine what it is like to have lung cancer and especially when you are young the risk of dying earlier doesn’t come into it.

I am a nurse, I saw people die from smoking-related diseases and that did not make me kick the habit. But if I had been told that I could lose my sight because of smoking I would have given up. I stopped the day I found out.”

Steve Winyard, RNIB’s Head of Campaigns and Chairman of AMD Alliance UK, said: “Smoking 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.

The message is simple: do not take up smoking and if you do – stop!

People also need to make sure they have regular eye tests to check their eyes are healthy – an eye test can save your sight.”RNIB is calling on the Government to introduce specific warnings on cigarette packets and to fund a major public awareness campaign on the dangers of smoking to your eyesight. RNIB is also joining the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Ophthalmologists in calling for a ban on smoking in all enclosed public places and workplaces across the UK.”

Did you know…

The benefits of quitting smoking are very real.

Studies have shown that people who stopped smoking 20 years ago have a similar risk of developing AMD as non-smokers do and the risk starts to decrease after ten years of not smoking.

Simon Kelly, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Bolton Eye Unit and co-author of the report published today, would also like to see warnings on cigarette packets. He said: “Knowledge of the link between smoking and AMD is very low but evidence from Australia and New Zealand shows that raising awareness of this link creates a powerful message for the general public.

A survey amongst patients in Bolton also published today suggests that fear of blindness is as compelling as fear of lung cancer and heart disease as a motivator to quit. In my clinical experience when people are diagnosed with AMD and learn of the link with smoking they are often sufficiently shocked and motivated to want to stop smoking straight away.”

Source RNIB, Royal National Institute of Blind People

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