People who smoke are about four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of severe vision loss, Australian researchers reported.
Researchers followed for 10 years 2,454 Australians who were at least age 49 at the study’s outset.
Along with being more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, smokers developed the disease an average of 5 years earlier than non-smokers, according to the study.
The results confirm those of other studies that also found a link between smoking and an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration. Previous smokers were three times as likely to have an advanced form of the disease than people who never smoked, the study also found.
The researchers asked the study participants about past and current smoking and their diet, and took retinal photos as well as weight and blood-pressure measurements.
Experts consider cigarette smoking the most preventable cause of macular degeneration. It is a chronic disease that affects the central part of the retina of the eye, resulting in blurred central vision or a blind spot in the center of one’s visual field.
Macular degeneration does not affect peripheral vision, but the loss of clear central vision can rob a person of the ability to read, drive and recognize people’s faces even without causing total blindness.