- 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
- 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