BOSTON--Macular degeneration is a common cause of
eye blindness. It's incidence is related to aging and it is the
leading cause of severe visual impairment in the elderly. Macular
degeneration has also been suggested to be related to genetics
(family background), diet (including zinc and antioxidants), sunlight
exposure, and heart disease risk.
The only treatment of macular degeneration is with
laser and is limited to a select group of patients who have a
certain type of new blood vessel growth in the back of the eye.
Laser treatment delays but does not prevent subsequent loss of
vision. To date no other proven prevention or treatments exist.
Therefore, strategies which could emphasize prevention are extremely
Two recent studies (one in men and one in women)
published in the Journal of the American Medical
(October 9, 1996) each found that cigarette smoking is an independent
and avoidable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration.
The take home lesson from these studies for viewers
of MedicineNet is that cigarette smoking does increase
the risk for the development of macular degeneration, a serious
cause of blindness in men and women. Further, this significant
cause of loss of quality of life and cost to society has a prevention
method--avoiding cigarette smoke. As suggested by the authors,
this is yet another reason for public health officials to step
up their "stop smoking" efforts.
For more information, please visit the Smoking and Quitting Smoking
site of MedicineNet.com.