Smokers twice at risk of developing macular degeneration and visual loss: UAE doctors
Smokers are at least twice as likely to develop macular degeneration – which can lead to visual loss – compared to their non-smoking counterparts, doctors in the United Arab Emirates have warned.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a progressive form of vision loss that is the leading cause of visual loss among adults aged 50 and over.
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Known risk factors for AMD — alongside increasing age — include certain genetic factors - and being a smoker.
Dr. Wissam Charafeddin, a specialist ophthalmologist at Barraquer Eye Hospital, UAE, said: “Smoking is the main influential modifiable risk factor; smokers above age 40 are twice or even four times more likely to develop AMD. So, patients must refrain from smoking to prevent further visual loss.”
There are other risk factors.
“Many genes have been linked to AMD and siblings of an affected individual have a threefold to sixfold higher risk than those of the general population to develop the disease,” said the doctor. “Patients with family history should be aware of the risk and visit the ophthalmologist frequently.”
AMD is a major cause of central visual loss in the developed world, affecting 10 percent of people older than 65 years and more than 25 percent of people older than 75 years.
“We distinguish 2 types of AMD: it could either be “Dry” degenerative or “wet” with the development of abnormal vessels in the retina,” said Dr Charafeddin. “In both variants, the patient should be aware of his disease and follow up on his condition with his ophthalmologist to decide upon treatment and management.
AMD patients can help their condition through nutrition and supplements, said the doctor.
“AMD patients are advised to consume green leafy vegetables and to eat fatty fish at least twice per week. These dietary modifications may not only delay the onset of AMD but they can also slow its progression.”
“Patients with moderate or advanced AMD should be advised to use supplements (referred to as AREDS-based supplements). These supplements slow the progression of AMD but do not prevent its development.”
Patients are also advised to maintain a healthy lifestyle with frequent physical activity and proper control of blood pressure and body weight.
“AMD is the result of a complex multifactorial interaction between metabolic, functional, genetic, and environmental factors,” said the doctor. “A healthy lifestyle consisting of no smoking, a healthy diet, use of protective sunglasses and intake of supplements when prescribed can be helpful in preventing or slowing the progression of the disease.”
“However, sometimes, even with all the measures taken and with the intake of supplements, AMD still can occur or progress. The best recommendation is that the patients should self-monitor frequently and undergo regular fundus examinations by a specialized ophthalmologist.”
Dr Vasu Kumar, a specialist ophthalmologist at NMC Royal Hospital DIP, said AMD accounts for about nine percent of all blindness worldwide.
“It happens when a small central portion of the retina, called macula (nerve sensing tissue at the back of the eye) wears down,” said Dr Kumar.
Dr Elisa Carreras at Ophthalmologist at Barraquer Eye Hospital UAE, said there are tips people can do to prevent the onset of the disease.
“Stay hydrated,” said the doctor. “Lack of water can exacerbate eye dryness. Sleep a minimum of six hours to keep your eyes rest and fresh.”
“Eat food rich on omega 3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, Vitamin E and C. Foods such as greens, leafy vegetables, bluefish, and nuts. Also, keep moving and doing exercise, not just for your eyes as well for the rest of your body.”
“Quit smoking or don’t be surrounded by smoking people. Tobacco harms eye tissue as well as the rest of organs of our body.”
“Protect your eyes from the sun with sunglasses and caps. Ultraviolet rays can make cataract progress and damage your retina.”
“Don’t rub your eyes, use eye lubricants instead. Rubbing eyes is related to the progression of astigmatism. And lastly, don’t forget to go to an ophthalmologist if signs like loss of vision, floaters, flashes, or dark shadows appear in your vision.”
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