Moderate Alcohol Consumption Does Not Reduce Eye Disease Risk
May 17, 2000 — Researchers came up empty yet another time in their search for more information about an elusive eye disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The disease, which is the leading cause of blindness in the U.S., affects central vision and is common in people aged 60 years and older.
Although it only affects the center of the field of vision, it often makes reading, driving, and other activities that require the use of central vision difficult.
Conflicting with results of previous studies, researchers in a recent study found no association between alcohol intake and a reduced risk of AMD. Other studies had shown that alcohol consumption may help protect the eyes from AMD, but this study, which was published in the May issue of the medical journal Archives of Ophthalmology, seems to dispel that premise.
Compounding the confusion, researchers also found that women who drank two or more glasses of white wine per day had a greater risk of AMD. “The apparent increased risk associated with alcohol was principally caused by wine, particularly white wine,” write Eunyoung Cho, ScD, and her colleagues.
Women tend to have a greater risk of the disease than men have. Smoking, family history, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels also have been associated with an increased risk of AMD, according to some studies.
Cho and her colleagues looked at data from more than 100,000 men and women and found that, overall, no specific types of alcohol protected drinkers against the eye disease.
The bottom line, unfortunately, is that doctors are no closer to understanding what causes AMD or knowing what the best treatment for it is.
“It’s important to stress that, unlike the advances that we’ve made in [heart] disease, we’re several steps behind in terms of age-related macular degeneration,” says expert Karl Csaky, MD. “What is clear is that while there may be an association, we can’t take exact parallel steps for our patients and tell them that the things that we think are beneficial for the prevention of cardiovascular disease — like moderate alcohol intake — probably don’t have similar effects for prevention of age-related macular degeneration.” Csaky is an investigator with the National Eye Institute in Bethesda, Md.
To learn more, visit our Living Better article on age-related macular degeneration.