New York, NY – A new Japanese and American study, published in the journal Ophthalmology, shows a strong link between smoking cigarettes and age related macular degeneration (AMD). Previous studies on the link reportedly met with mixed results. AMD occurs when the light sensing cells in the retina begin to die off.
Scientists found that Japanese smokers were four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. In addition to AMD, smokers also were five times more likely to develop a vision disorder called polypoidal choroidal vasculopathy. This disorder leads to bleeding in the retina.
AMD is more common in Japanese men than in women, but researchers say this is probably because more Japanese men smoke than do Japanese women. The study included 279 people with AMD and 143 without the disease.
There are several drugs that are used to keep AMD from rapid progression, although there is no cure for this leading cause of blindness in people over the age of 65. Lucentis, a drug made by Roche, prevents the formation of abnormal blood vessels. Avastin, a drug with more side effects than Lucentis, is not approved for treating AMD, but is commonly used to treat it. Surgery is also a treatment to slow the progression of the disease.
There are two forms of AMD: Wet AMD is when blood vessels leak into the retina. Blindness occurs rapidly in wet AMD. Dry AMD is more common and progresses more slowly.
Some scientists currently have a theory that smoking may cause AMD. An eye surgeon at Royal Bolton Hospital in England, and author of two previous reviews on the link between smoking and AMD, says this latest study also supports that connection. He believes that there needs to be a public health message that highlights the link between smoking and AMD in every country in the world. “In Europe we are calling on governments to put the message ‘smoking causes blindness’ on tobacco products.”
If you would like more information on age related macular degeneration, please contact an experienced eye doctor in your area to schedule an appointment.