A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported a significant link between cigarette smoking and the risk of development of age-related macular degeneration. In two separate investigations, researchers at the Harvard Medical School evaluated the relationship between smoking and the incidence of macular degeneration in both men and women.
Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of severe visual impairment in the elderly, and is responsible for approximately 1.7 million cases of impaired vision in the United States. The prevalence of this disease increases with age and it is the leading cause of new blindness in people over 65.
In this newly released study, smokers were found to have 2 to 3 times the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration as individuals who had never smoked. Past smokers were also found to have an increased risk of developing the condition although this was decreased compared to current smokers.
Age-related macular degeneration is a very significant cause of visual loss in the United States. Although laser treatment is indicated in selected cases, unfortunately most cases are not amenable to treatment. For this reason, it is of great importance to identify important risk factors in order to enable us to prevent this condition.
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