Smoking ‘key factor’ in blindness

Smoking is a key factor in one of the most common causes of blindness, experts said yesterday.

The researchers said those at a high genetic risk of age-related macular degeneration should give up cigarettes to help them preserve their sight in later life.

Eye

Eye

Smoking caused at least a third of severe cases of the condition, said the team from Queen’s University, Belfast.

Previous research has found a link between smoking and the disease, but calculations by the Belfast researchers suggest that patients with distinct genetic markers have a very high risk.

Their study of almost 700 people threw up five common gene markers which substantially increase the chances of developing macular degeneration.

Lead researcher Anne Hughes

said: “Unless smoking habits change or preventative treatment becomes available, the prevalence of AMD will rise as a consequence of the increasing longevity of the population.”

An estimated 200,000 Britons are diagnosed with macular degeneration each year.

The Belfast study was reported in the Public Library of Science’s Medicine journal.

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