Thursday, March 10, 2011

Smoking = Macular degeneration

Hello everyone,

I hope that the blog title caught your attention, to both smokers and non-smokers alike. A few of the main risk factors for developing age-related macular degeneration are 1) getting older, 2) light-haired/light-skinned individuals and 3) smoking. Guess which one is completely optional?

My AMD talk with older patients who have the disease or early signs of the disease goes something like this: "Smoking significantly increases your risk for developing AMD. Do you smoke cigarettes?" If the answer is "yes," then I remind them of the "elevated risk of going blind from macular degeneration and that my recommendation is to cease smoking to minimize the progression of AMD." I also remind them that there is no "reversing the damage caused by AMD," and that "although there are treatment options available, the treatment is only for severe forms of the disease." I start them on on an AREDS formula multi-vitamin (without Vitamin A/beta-carotene => increases the risk of lung cancer in smokers) 1-2 times a day, give them an Amsler grid (a checkerboard-type pattern that's sensitive to central vision changes) and recommend they return in a certain timeframe, or to return sooner if there is any noticed vision loss or distortion in vision.

A recent article inspired me to write on my blog about this, having this "talk" to young people reading this before they got to the point 20-50 years from now when they are wondering why a new eyeglass prescription won't clear up their vision anymore.

The recent article is actually good news: the percentage of people with age-related macular degeneration has dropped more than 30% in 15 years, according to a study published in the January issue of Archives of Ophthalmology. One possible reason: Fewer people are smoking cigarettes, a known cause of eye disease.
Specifically, the rate of people age 40 and older with the disease has dropped from 9.4% in the late 1980s to 6.5% in the late 2000s—a decline of 30.8%.They go on to say that the decrease in AMD rates may be because of changes in smoking frequency and other lifestyle changes relating to diet, physical activity and blood pressure.

However, don't be fooled by the decrease in macular degeneration. AMD is still a leading cause of vision loss and affects over 1.75 million Americans. For more information about AMD from the National Eye Institute, visit =>

Dr. Weaver