Alcohol intake and smoking increase risk of AMD

Posted: Friday 19 November 2021
Pouring red wine into glass

New research has identified an association between increased alcohol intake and the risk of developing dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

In addition, the research from the Institute of Health Informatics, University College London supports the known association between smoking and the risk of developing late-stage AMD.

The team of researchers also investigated blood pressure, body mass index, and measures used to diagnose and monitor type 2 diabetes and heart health. In this analysis, no association was found between these factors and increased risk of advanced AMD, but other research has shown a link, so the results are conflicting.

The research reinforces previous studies which identify the importance of a healthy lifestyle in order to reduce the risks of developing AMD. Diet and lifestyle changes play a vital role in reducing the risk of AMD, or slowing its progression.

Authors of the research were keen to highlight the importance of making the general public aware of such risk factors in order to the reduce the prevalence of the condition, which affects more than 600,000 people in the UK.

Consultant ophthalmologist and one of the authors of the research, Adnan Tufail, said: “While smoking and alcohol consumption are already known to be associated with advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a major strength of this study is how genetic data was used to demonstrate that these two risk factors may cause AMD. It also suggested that stopping smoking can reduce the risk of advanced AMD, sending a strong positive message to people who are trying to quit smoking that their efforts are worth it.”

Geraldine Hoad, research manager at the Macular Society, added: “We know there are several risk factors for developing age-related macular degeneration. Some, such as your genes, aren’t within your control but living a healthy lifestyle is also important for reducing your risk of AMD. We have known for some years that smoking is one of the biggest modifiable risk factors when it comes to AMD and this research also implicates higher alcohol intake. The simple message is, anything that is good for your heart is good for your eyes.”

You can find more information on smoking and sight loss on our resource page

The Macular Society recently launched a risk checker to estimate yours, or your family's, risk of developing macular disease. By answering a short series of questions, the tool allows you to see how likely you are to lose your sight to macular disease, which affects nearly 1.5m people in the UK.

Check your risk and get your own personalised risk report or share this tool with friends and family members.