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Eye Expert Focuses on Risk of Smoking

Eye Expert Focuses on Risk of Smoking

The connection between eyes, smoking and greens will be made next week when Professor Paul Mitchell, international retina specialist from the University of Sydney, embarks on a public seminar tour of New Zealand as part of the Save Our Sight eye health awareness campaign.

Professor Mitchell is visiting to talk about age-related macular degeneration which is an eye disease that causes loss of central vision, leaving only peripheral, or side, vision intact. It is the leading cause of blindness for people over 50 in New Zealand.

Central eye vision is critical for the simple tasks of daily living such as reading, driving, crossing the road and recognising faces.

According to Dr Lesley Frederikson, speaking on behalf of the SOS campaign, people start going blind because blood vessels degenerate in the back part of the eye.

"The risk of blindness increases if there's a family history of macular degeneration, if you smoke, or if you don't eat enough fish and green vegetables," said Dr Frederikson.

"Smoking and poor diet can impact severely on your eye sight, complicating conditions such as AMD."

Russ Finnerty, president of Diabetes New Zealand, agrees. "Close to 40,000 of the known 115,000 people in New Zealand with diabetes have already lost some of their sight through diabetic retinopathy and this cannot be reversed. However if detected early, and if good management of diabetes is introduced, then its effects can be halted," said Mr Finnerty "The main steps you can take to delay or prevent eye damage from diabetes are by maintaining blood glucose levels as close as possible to normal. Quitting smoking and maintaining healthy diets will certainly help." One US study showed that people who improved their blood glucose levels had their risk of developing diabetic retinopathy cut by 40 to 70 percent. Professor Paul Mitchell will be guest speaker at the public seminars in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch next week. Novartis Ophthalmics has sponsored Professor Mitchell's visit from Australia. Professor Mitchell will also be facilitating ADM forums for eye health specialists. Public seminar schedule:

Auckland Time: 10.00am - 11.00am Date: Friday 22nd August 2003 Venue: Crowne Plaza Auckland - Victoria Room 128 Albert Street Auckland Wellington Time: 4.30pm - 5.30pm Date: Friday 22nd August 2003 Venue: InterContinental Wellington - Featherston Room Cnr Grey & Featherston Streets Wellington Christchurch Time: 10.30am - 11.30am Date: Saturday 23rd August 2003 Venue: Centra Christchurch - Ballroom Cnr Cashel & High Streets Christchurch

Professor Paul Mitchell is a leading retinal ophthalmologist and international speaker on this disease. Head of the Ophthalmology Department at the University of Sydney, based at Westmead Hospital, Professor Mitchell is a world expert in the epidemiology of macular degeneration. He conducted the world renowned Blue Mountains Eye Studies which provided unique information about the incidence of the disease in an Australian population, including proving the link between smoking and macular degeneration.

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