It’s never too late to stub the butt and save eyesight

December 31st, 2009 - 5:27 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Dec 31 (IANS) It’s never too late to kick the butt, as even at ages beyond 80 smoking affects eyesight, a new study has shown.
Even after age of 80, smoking continues to increase one’s risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Americans over 65, a University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study has found.

“The take-home message is that it’s never too late to quit smoking,” said Anne Coleman, professor of ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute of UCLA, who led the study. “We found that even older people’s eyes will benefit from kicking the habit.”

AMD causes progressive damage to the macula, the centre of the retina 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 women 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, says a UCLA release.

“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.”

These findings are slated for publication in the January issue of The American Journal of Ophthalmology.

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