Tobacco and age-related macular degeneration
Using tobacco products leads to age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a primary cause of blindness in older adults.Footnote 1Footnote 2Footnote 3Footnote 4
- Key facts about tobacco use and age-related macular degeneration
- What is age-related macular degeneration?
- How does tobacco use increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration?
- How does quitting affect the risk of age-related macular degeneration?
- Health benefits of quitting tobacco use at any age
- Call for free help to quit
Key facts about tobacco use and age-related macular degeneration
- Someone who smokes is 2 to 4 times more likely to develop AMD compared to someone who has never smoked.Footnote 5Footnote 6
- Each year in Canada, there are nearly 200,000 newly diagnosed cases of AMD.Footnote 7
- In most cases, there is no effective treatment for AMD.Footnote 1Footnote 8
View health labels for cigarettes and little cigars.
What is age-related macular degeneration?
Age-related macular degeneration affects a person's central vision and the ability to see fine details. This occurs when the part of the eye responsible for seeing fine details, called the macula, is damaged. As the macula degenerates, it becomes very difficult to read, drive, and recognize faces, diminishing one's quality of life. AMD can even lead to blindness.Footnote 1Footnote 7
The treatment for AMD is limited and includes lifestyle changes, dietary supplements, laser therapy, and drugs that are injected into the affected eye. At best, these treatments may only slow down the progression of the disease.Footnote 1Footnote 2
AMD is the leading cause of blindness in adults aged 55 years and older, in developed countries.Footnote 1Footnote 2Footnote 3
How does tobacco use increase the risk of age-related macular degeneration?
Many chemicals in tobacco smoke are harmful. When these chemicals are absorbed into the blood, they travel through the blood stream to the retina, an eye structure that contains the macula and plays a major role in vision. The chemicals irritate the cells of the retina, causing the retina to become inflamed and damaged. Smoking may also contribute to poor blood flow to other structures in the eye.Footnote 9
How does quitting reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration?
When someone stops smoking, the risk of AMD starts to decrease. Twenty years after quitting, the risk of developing AMD is similar to someone who has never smoked.Footnote 10Footnote 11Footnote 12
Health benefits of quitting tobacco use at any age
Quitting smoking reduces the risk of premature death, improves health, and enhances quality of life.Footnote 13 Quitting at any age is beneficial to one's health.Footnote 13 Even people who have smoked or used tobacco heavily for many years benefit from it.Footnote 9Footnote 13 Quitting is the most important thing someone who smokes can do to improve their health.
Read more about the benefits of quitting smoking.
For help to quit
Free quit counselling, coaching and other services in your province or territory
- Footnote 1
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking: 50 Years of Progress. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2014.
- Footnote 2
Thornton J, Edwards R, Mitchell P, Harrison RA, Buchan I, Kelly SP. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration: a review of association. Eye. 2005;19:935-944. doi: 10.1038/sj.eye.6701978.
- Footnote 3
Chakravarthy U, Wong TY, Fletcher A, Piault E, Evans C, Zlateva G, Buggage R, Pleil A, Mitchell P. Clinical risk factors for age-related macular degeneration: a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Ophthalmol. 2010;10:31. doi: 10.1186/1471-2415-10-31.
- Footnote 4
Cong R, Zhou B, Sun Q, Gu H, Tang N, Wang B. Smoking and the risk of age-related macular degeneration: A meta-analysis. Annals of Epidemiology. 2008;18(8):647-656. doi: 10.1016/j.annepidem.2008.04.002.
- Footnote 5
Velilla S, García-Medina JJ, García-Layana A, Dolz-Marco R, Pons-Vázquez S, Pinazo-Durán MD, Gómez-Ulla F, Arévalo JF, Díaz-Llopis M, Gallego-Pinazo R. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration: review and update. Journal of ophthalmology. 2013 Dec 4;2013.
- Footnote 6
Heesterbeek TJ, Lores-Motta L, Hoyng CB, Lechanteur YTE & den Hollander AI. Risk factors for progression of age-related macular degeneration. Ophthalmic Physiol Opt 2020; 40: 140–170. https://doi.org/10.1111/opo.12675
- Footnote 7
Brown MM, Brown GC, Stein JD, Roth Z, Campanella J, Beauchamp GR. Age-related macular degeneration: economic burden and value-based medicine analysis. Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology 2002;40(3):277-287. doi: 10.1016/S0008-4182(05)80070-5.
- Footnote 8
Hernández-Zimbrón LF, Zamora-Alvarado R, Velez-Montoya R, Zenteno E, Gulias-Cañizo R, Quiroz-Mercado H, Gonzalez-Salinas R. Age-related macular degeneration: new paradigms for treatment and management of AMD. Oxidative medicine and cellular longevity. 2018 Oct;2018.
- Footnote 9
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Consequences of Smoking. A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2004.
- Footnote 10
Vingerling JR, Hofman A, Grobbee DE, de Jong PT. Age-related macular degeneration and smoking. The Rotterdam Study. Arch Ophthalmol. 1996;114(10):1193-1196. doi: 10.1001/archopht.1996.01100140393005.
- Footnote 11
Delcourt C, Diaz JL, Ponton-Sanchez A, Papoz L. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration. The POLA Study. Pathologies Oculaires Liees a l'Age. Arch Ophthalmol. 1998; 116(8): 1031-1035. doi:10.1001/archopht.116.8.1031.
- Footnote 12
Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Manson JE, Ajani UA, Buring JE. A prospective study of cigarette smoking and risk of age-related macular degeneration in men. JAMA. 1996;276(14):1147-1151. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03540140035023.
- Footnote 13
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Smoking Cessation: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health; 2020.
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