The prevalence of smoking is down, but 1 in 5 people still dying from the habit.

Talk to patients about smoking, AMD

Someday the Great American Smokeout, a national campaign sponsored by the American Cancer Society since 1976, may go up in a puff of smoke. Not yet though.

"Perhaps armed with this additional knowledge, they may take it upon themselves to consider quitting, or seek out ways to help them quit.

People are smoking less, according to U.S. News and World Report in April 2017, yet smoking takes the lives of 1 in 5 people in this country. It also is an irritant to the eyes.

So Steve Ferrucci, O.D., will continue to warn his patients that smoking is a risk factor for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Dr. Ferrucci is chief of optometry at Sepulveda VA Medical Center and professor at Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University.

AMD is one of the conditions he addresses on a daily basis in his practice.

"Multiple studies have shown that cigarette smoking is the No. 1 modifiable risk factor for AMD as well as its progression," Dr. Ferrucci says. "Therefore, I think it is reasonable, as doctors of optometry, to ask all our patients with AMD, or at risk for AMD, if they smoke-and to tell them of the association between smoking and AMD."

Risky business

AMD is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 50. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 1.8 million people have AMD and another 7.3 million are at substantial risk for vision loss from AMD. Among the risk factors for AMD (dry and wet forms) are:

  • Smoking
  • Age
  • Family history
  • Race
  • Obesity
  • Cardiovascular disease

Learn more about AMD, its symptoms and treatment.

Dr. Ferrucci doesn't need a day of observance to converse with patients about how they can protect their own vision. He asks them:

  • Do you smoke?
  • Are you a current or former smoker? Never smoked?
  • How much do you smoke?

Smoking cessation is an opportunity for doctors of optometry to exercise their roles as primary health care providers. For instance, doctors are required to record a patient's smoking status under electronic health record meaningful use requirements.

Information is power

Smoking rates are at an all-time low in the U.S. About 20.9 percent of American adults smoked in 2005, compared to 15.1 percent a decade later. That's 36.5 million Americans who still smoke, though, meaning it remains a public health hazard. 

"Perhaps armed with this additional knowledge, they may take it upon themselves to consider quitting, or seek out ways to help them quit," Dr. Ferrucci says. "When possible, resources that can assist patients in this difficult transition should be made available."

November 15, 2017

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