smoking can result in amd symptoms

​Smokers have up to four times the risk of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration compared to non-smokers.

What is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a disease that affects the part of the part of the eye called the macula. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina. It is important for clear central vision and allows you to see fine details.

Symptoms of AMD include:

  • Blurred central reading vision
  • Distorted central vision (straight lines appear wavy)
  • Dark patch blocking the central vision

Most cases of AMD are irreversible and are difficult to treat.

How is Smoking Related to AMD?

smoking and amd symptoms

Smoking is a major risk factor and the leading cause of death for many diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. Smoking is also related to many eye conditions, particularly cataract and AMD.

Smokers have two to four times higher risk of developing AMD compared to non-smokers.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 poisonous chemicals. These include:

  • Tar – substance used to cover the surface of roads
  • Carbon monoxide – reduces the oxygen supply to all parts of the body
  • Nicotine – an addictive drug
  • DDT – a pesticide
  • Arsenic – used as ant poison
  • Ammonia – found in floor cleaners

These toxic substances can affect the tissues in the eyes. In addition, cigarette smoke also causes eye irritation to smokers and non-smokers.

Types of AMD

There are two types of AMD – dry and wet.

Dry AMD is a common and milder form of AMD and it accounts for 85% - 90% of all AMD cases. The main characteristic of dry AMD is the presence of fine white-yellow substances in the retina called drusen.

Wet AMD is more severe as it can cause sudden loss of vision and accounts for 10% - 15% of all AMD cases. This happens when the blood vessels under the retina bleed, causing the cells that are sensitive to light to die, thereby creating blind spots or distortion of central vision.

Who is at Risk of AMD?

old man smoking with amd symptoms

You are more likely to suffer from AMD if you:

  • Smoke
  • Are above 50 years old
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have a history of AMD in your family

How Do I Know if I Have AMD?

The Amsler Grid can be used to test your central vision, however, it is not a substitute for regular eye examinations.

Instruction: cover one eye at a time and focus on the centre dot from a distance of 30cm from the chart. If you are wearing contact lenses, you should wear them during the test.

It is possible that you may have AMD if you notice:

  • Wave, broken or distorted lines, or
  • Blurred or missing areas in your central vision

You can contact your eye-care provider for more information on AMD.

If you are a smoker and would like to quit smoking, please call QuitLine at 1800-438 2000 for more information and support.

*Photographs are reproduced with permission from Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, Alexandra Hospital and The Eye Institute, National Healthcare Group.

Download our PDF document to learn more about AMD