Smoking Linked to Macular Degeneration

Individuals who smoke are at a greater risk to develop age-related macular degeneration according to a new study conducted by the John Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Macular degeneration or AMD is an eye disease that results in the loss of central vision in those patients suffering from the disease. Damage to the center of the retina eventually leads to blindness and macular degeneration is noted as the leading cause of blindness in individuals over 50.

The new study shows that macular degeneration may increase the chance of the eye disease worsening which will result in the loss ofdentral vision. As the macula or the center of the retina is damaged by the scarring resulting from macular degeneration, patients eventually lose the fine vision required for activities such as reading and driving.

It is thought that those individuals who smoke cause damage to the blood vessels that carry blood to the retina. This leads to an increased risk of the eye disease and could result in the development of wet macular degeneration, the most advanced form of the disease. Additionally, smoking may also result in deposits of toxins builting up in the retinal tissue which in turn damages the light sensitive tissue.

The current study of 4,439 patients showed that 24 percent of the people developed early stage macular degeneration over the course of 20 years and that 4.5 percent progressed to the late-stage macular degeneration. Smoking was tied to approximately a 36 percent great risk of progressing from the early stages of AMD to moderate stages of the eye disease. Those individuals who smoked over a longer period of time had a slightly increased risk of developing early stage macular degeneration and of going from early to late stage in the disease.

The study researchers noted that this does not prove that smoking causes macular degeneration or speeds its progression. It also does not show that quitting smoking will prevent or slow the disease. It does however, show that as with other diseases, smoking does have important implications for an individual’s health, one of which could potentially be macular degeneration.