31/03/2014 - Permalink

Smoking doubles the risk of eye disease

Related topics: Community / Health / Partner organisations

Optometrists from around the county came to listen to key experts in the fields of eye disease and public health recently as part of a project funded by the RNIB.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment in Western countries. The condition does not cause complete blindness, but it leads to a gradual loss of central vision, which is needed for activities like driving, reading, writing, watching television and facial recognition. Smoking has been identified as the most consistently reported modifiable risk factor for the development of AMD.

Leading research by Professor John Lawrenson, Professor of Clinical Visual Science at City University London, has shown that only a third of eye care professionals reported that they actively gave advice to patients on stopping smoking. Professor Lawrenson, who presented at the event, highlighted the need for profession-specific guidance to support lifestyle interventions for AMD and has shown that eye care professionals can play a critical role in educating the public and encouraging smokers to quit.

The RNIB project aims to provide education and resources for eye care specialists across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin to help them support smokers to quit.

Professor Rod Thomson, Director of Public Health for Shropshire said;

“We are delighted to be working with our partners involved in eye care across the county. The chemicals in cigarettes affect blood vessels throughout the body and as blood flow lowers around the eye, tissues around the eye become damaged. Smoking can cause a number of sight-threatening vision problems, as well as worsen existing eye disorders. Smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight as non-smokers, and smoking is the biggest controllable risk factor associated with AMD.”

Claire Roberts, Clinical Adviser, Ophthalmology Redesign for Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups added:

“The main early symptom of AMD is blurred central vision which might mean that colour seems less bright, printed words become more difficult to read and faces become harder to recognise. Another symptom of AMD is distorted vision, so straight lines might start to appear wavy or crooked.


Not only does smoking more than double the risk of developing AMD but existing conditions will progress faster in smokers than in non-smokers. Also, smokers being treated for AMD might not respond as well to treatment as non-smokers so providing patients with advice to stop smoking can play a big part in the management of this disease.”

Councillor Karen Calder Cabinet Member for Health at Shropshire Council said;

“The prevention of ill health is everybody’s role and we are delighted so many eye-care specialists have joined in this campaign to offer smokers the best help available. Local stop smoking services can quadruple your chances of quitting smoking and are readily accessible at venues across the county.”

The councils’ healthy lifestyle hubs can provide more information, call 0345 678 9025 or 01952 382582.