__ Smokers much more likely to go BLIND

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Smokers at higher risk of blindness

From correspondents in Washington

August 14, 2007 07:29am
Article from: Reuters

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PEOPLE who smoke are about four times more likely to develop a leading
cause of
severe vision loss known as age-related macular degeneration, Australian
researchers say.

Their study provides strong evidence of the link between cigarette smoking
and a
leading cause of vision loss in old age.

For 10 years, researchers led by Jennifer Tan of the University of Sydney
followed 2454 Australians who were at least age 49 at the study's outset.

Smokers were about four times more likely to develop the disease than
people who
never smoked, and developed it an average of five years earlier, according
the study published in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology.

Previous smokers were three times as likely to have an advanced form of the
disease than people who never smoked, the study also found.

"The risk from smoking seemed to persist above that of never smokers for a
considerable time after quitting smoking," the researchers wrote.

The researchers asked the study participants about past and current smoking
their diet, and took retinal photos as well as weight and blood-pressure

Experts call cigarette-smoking the most preventable cause of macular
degeneration. It is a chronic disease that affects the central part of the
retina of the eye, resulting in blurred central vision or a blind spot in
centre of one's visual field.

Macular degeneration does not affect peripheral vision, but the loss of
central vision can rob a person of the ability to read, drive and recognise
people's faces even without causing total blindness.

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