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Warning issued on smoking and eye damage

Wednesday 6 September, 2006

Smokers are three times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in Australians over 40 years old.

The Optometrists Association Australia (Vic) have sent a message to smokers that quitting early reduces your risk of developing macular degeneration in the long term.

A report released earlier this year by the Centre for Eye Research Australia, revealed that the likelihood of smokers developing AMD is tripled when compared to people who have never smoked.

The report also highlighted that AMD costs the Federal Government more than $2.6 billion dollars every year, a figure expected to blow-out over the next twenty years as the population ages.

President of the Optometrists Association (Vic), Ms Paula Monaco, said "AMD is responsible for almost half of severe vision loss in Australia and smoking is the only modifiable risk factor for the disease.

"Treatment success for AMD is limited so prevention by reducing risk factors, like smoking, offers the best hope."

"Recent research shows that in the long term quitting smoking can reverse the risk levels for AMD close to pre-smoking levels."

Ms Monaco said that the risk of developing AMD also increased dramatically for a smoker who also has a family history of the disease.

Quit Victoria and The Optometrists Association Australia (Vic) have recently collaborated to launch a new quit smoking referral pad for optometrists. The referral pad is designed to assist optometrists in talking with patients about smoking and the damage it causes to the eyes.

Deputy Director of Quit Victoria, Ms Suzanne Stillman, said the collaboration was an important step in reducing the devastating harm to the community caused by cigarettes.

"Optometrists have a fundamental role to play when it comes to helping those that smoke to quit, given they see over a million Victorians every year."

"They have a unique opportunity to motivate smokers and change their behaviour by offering encouragement, advice and guidance related to effects of smoking and benefits of quitting.'

"There is too much needless blindness in Australia - smoking just adds to the problem," said Ms Stillman.

ends

Edwina Vellar,
Media Manager
ph: (03) 9635 5400
mob: 0417 303 811
email:
Edwina.Vellar@cancervic.org.au

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