(Plus 4 Other Eye Diseases Linked with Smoking)
People who quit smoking may lower their risk of developing cataract – a common condition wherein the eyes become progressively cloudy, leading to impaired vision, and ultimately, vision loss – researchers found.
Cataract affects nearly 22 million Americans over the age of 40, and it affects over 50 per cent of the American population 80 years and older. Now, researchers from Sweden have found that middle-aged men who smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day could lower their risk of cataract over the period of two decades if they quit smoking.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, involved a group of Swedish men ages 45 to 79 years. The researchers studied the relationship between smoking and the over 5,000 cases of cataracts that were recorded throughout the study period.
The findings revealed that men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes per day had 42 percent risk of undergoing cataract removal than those who never smoked. The good news is, quitting can significantly lower such risk, the researchers note. For example, after 20 years of not smoking, former smokers who have smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day were 22 percent less likely to undergo surgery to remove their cataracts.
In 2012, researchers from the Institute of Ophthalmology, Zhejiang University in China arrived to similar findings. In this study, they looked at 12 cohorts and eight case-control studies from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North Americas to compare the prevalence of age-related cataract in people who ever smoked to those who never smoked. Their findings suggest that every individual who smoke had an increased risk for age-related cataracts, with a higher risk of incidence in current smokers. Smoking was linked with two subtypes of cataract: nuclear cataract (when the clouding is in the central nucleus of the eye), and subcapsular cataract (when the clouding is in the rear of the lens capsule). However, there was no association found between cortical cataract and smoking – the type of cataract wherein the cloudiness affects the cortex of the lens.
Other Eye Problems Linked with Smoking
Not only does smoking increase your risk of cataract, it could also elevate your risk for other eye diseases, including the following:
Uveitis – while there are no studies conducted on humans, lab studies on mice found that endotoxin – a chemical found in tobacco, can trigger inflammatory response and acute uveitis.
Studies from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe and North Americas compare the prevalence of age-related cataract in people who smoked to those who never smoked. Their findings suggest that every individual who smoke had an increased risk for age-related cataracts, with a higher risk of incidence in current smokers.
Age-related macular degeneration – Smoking is a clearly established risk factor for age-related macular degeneration. Findings from three large studies suggest that smokers are three times more likely to suffer from this condition.
Thyroid eye disease – also called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, this condition is characterized by inflammation of the eye and fat in the eye socket. Research has shown that smokers are more likely to have this eye disease than those who never smoked.
Ocular surface disorders – this refers to a group of eye disorders than are usually characterized by redness, itchiness and irritation of the eyes. Studies suggest that changes to eye ocular surface due to smoking could lead to changes in the lipid layer of the tear film, reduced tear secretion and reduced corneal and conjunctival sensitivity.
There’s no doubt that the eyes are among the most important parts of the body. By quitting smoking today, you can significantly reduce your likelihood of developing eye problems.