Blue-Eyed People Said More
At Risk Of Blindness

SYDNEY - Blue eyed smokers beware!

Australian researchers say people with blue eyes are more likely to go blind in old age, and so are those who smoke.
A four-year study of 3,600 people from the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, found smokers were four times as likely as nonsmokers to lose vision in old age.
The study also found that people who were short sighted had a greater risk of developing cataracts.
Professor Paul Mitchell, of the department of ophthalmology at the University of Sydney, said people with blue rather than brown irises were at a higher risk of developing macular degeneration, in which central vision is lost as a person ages.
"It's been known that macular degeneration is very much a Caucasian (white person's) disease. It's the commonest cause of vision loss in Australia, causing two-thirds of blindness," Mitchell told Australian Associated Press.
He said the risk was greater in people who were highly sensitive to the sun. "We've found that there is a two-fold increased risk for blue eyes," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said U.S. research suggested macular degeneration occurred in blacks at one-third the rate of whites, and less frequently among Asians.
In Australia it affects 1.6 percent of people aged over 50, rising steeply to about 10 percent over the age of 80.
Mitchell said the commonest risk factor was smoking, and women were affected worse than men. Cigarette consumption increased the risk of the disease four or five fold.
Early signs of macular degeneration for an elderly person is sudden loss of vision or a dark patch in one eye, or distortion such as straight lines becoming wavy and bent.
Mitchell said evidence worldwide pointed to an increase in myopia or short-sightedness.
Also, the age at which people began wearing glasses affected their chances of cataract surgery in later life, he said.
Those who needed glasses in childhood had a four-fold risk of cataracts later, Mitchell added.
The Australian study was due to be presented to a conference of ophthalmologists in Queensland state's Gold Coast this week.