The loss of sight costs the UK economy £6.5 billion each year and it is claimed the link between smoking and the UK's leading causes of sight loss are as strong as the link between smoking and lung cancer. Yet, according to new research published today just 45 per cent of smokers in the UK are aware that smoking can dramatically increase their risk of developing cataracts, one of the major causes of vision loss in the UK.
Consultants at BMI Southend Private Hospital are this month encouraging the local Essex community to find out more about the major causes of sight loss in the UK, which include age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. Cataracts, which are caused by the natural discolouration of the lens in the eye, and age-related macular degeneration, a condition which effects the retina at the back of a patients eye, are both common in UK people aged over 55. However, smoking has been shown to dramatically increase a persons likelihood of developing the conditions which can cause partial or complete loss of sight. In the UK it is estimated that smoking accounts for around 25 per cent of all incidences of cataracts.
The research published by BMI Southend Private Hospital, also revealed the lack of awareness of the link between the exposure to high levels of sunlight, in particular UV rays, and sight loss. In the UK 80 per cent of people do not wear adequate UV eye protection during the summer months or while on their summer holiday’s abroad.
Commenting on the results, Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon Mr Sam Kasaby at BMI Southend Hospital said: “As people age there are many factors that lead to the development of diseases such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. However, smoking and exposure to high levels of UV light can dramatically increase a person’s risk. While sight maybe something that many of us take for granted when young it is something that as it deteriorates we all start to appreciate more and more. Simple changes in lifestyle such as wearing adequate sun protection and giving up smoking can dramatically help reduce a person’s risk or impaired vision or complete sight loss.”