Smoking and Macular Degeneration

Smoking and macular degeneration - Is it a risk factor for age related macular degeneration?  In many ways smoking adds up to poor eye health. There are several studies that confirm smoking contributes to the cause of macular degeneration. 

macular degeneration and smoking

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for the development and progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is a condition that affects the macula, the central part of the retina, and can lead to central vision loss. There are two main types of AMD: dry AMD and wet AMD.

Multiple studies have shown a significant association between smoking and an increased risk of AMD.

Research indicates that smoking can accelerate the progression of AMD and increase the likelihood of developing advanced forms of the disease.

Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration: Review and Update

"...cigarette smoking is a proven risk factor for both development and progression of AMD, as well as for the clinical response in both atrophic (dry) and neovascular (wet) forms of AMD. As has been previously described, smoking by itself promotes molecular and pathological changes that may establish an ideal macular microenvironment for the development of AMD: vascular inflammation and endothelial dysregulation, oxidative damage, toxic damage, and histopathological changes."

J Ophthalmol. 2013; 2013: 895147.

The exact mechanisms by which smoking contributes to AMD are not fully understood, but it is believed that smoking contributes to AMD progression due to oxidative stress, inflammation, and damage to blood vessels in the eye. 

Smoking contributes to vascular disease not only in the heart but also in all parts of the body.

This means the blood vessels of the eye are affected as well. Poor circulation contributes to the degeneration of the retina because important nutrients and oxygen are not delivered adequately nor are built up waste products effectively removed.

If you are a smoker - quit.

Smoking impedes the circulation of blood to the eye and retina and damages the delicate blood vessels inside your eye. Several large epidemiologic studies have shown that smoking more than doubles the risk for age related macular degeneration (AMD).

There are many reasons that smoking increases your risk of macular degeneration for dry (atrophic) and wet (neovascular) macular degeneration.

Why Quit Smoking

Every cigarette you smoke is causing damage to your vision. Macular degeneration and smoking have many health implications for the eyes.

√ Smoking causes vasoconstriction (narrowing of blood vessels) which affects the blood supply to the eye and increases your blood pressure which is also a risk factor for macular degeneration.

√ Smoking enhances the generation of free radicals which causes cellular damage.

macular degeneration and smoking

√ Smoking decreases the levels of antioxidants (which protect against free radical damage) in the blood circulation, the aqueous humor (the clear liquid between the cornea and the lens) and the tissue surrounding the eye and retina.

√ Smoking causes a reduction in macular pigment density in the fovea (center of the macula). Macular pigment protects the macula from UV and blue light damage.

√ Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood so that there is less oxygen being fed to the macula.

√ The tar in cigarettes triggers the formation of deposits and thickening in the retina that cause age-related macular degeneration, according to Duke University Medical Center researchers.

"Our group also previously demonstrated that nicotine makes active wet macular degeneration worse. This is important because this implies that patients with active wet AMD should not smoke or use nicotine replacement therapies," states Ivan Suñer, MD.

The study done by Dr. Suñer also concluded that heavy exposure to secondhand smoke can also cause these problems:

smoking and macular degeneration

√ Smoking impedes the circulation of blood to the eye and retina and damages the delicate blood vessels inside your eye.

√ Studies in mice showed that smoking has a role in cell injury to the retinal pigment epithelium.

Given the strong association between smoking and AMD, quitting smoking is highly recommended for individuals who smoke, especially those with a family history of AMD or other risk factors for the disease.

Additionally, avoiding secondhand smoke may also be beneficial in reducing the risk of AMD. Regular eye exams are important for early detection and management of AMD, particularly for individuals at higher risk due to smoking or other factors.

One of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against age related macular degeneration is not to smoke, and if you do smoke, to stop.

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