In a recent study, Swedish researchers found that male smokers are 45% more likely than men who have never smoked to have a cataract removed. While research has well established that smokers have a higher risk for developing cataracts, this new research supports the finding that, over time, previous smokers can reduce their risk of cataracts.
Despite quitting smoking, former smokers still have a higher risk of developing cataracts. But men who smoke 15 cigarettes or more a day and quit are able to reduce their risk of cataracts over the next 20 years. In the study, these men showed only a 21% higher risk of having a cataract removed than men who had never smoked at all. The more a man smoked, the longer it took for his high risk to subside.
The study surveyed over 44,000 Swedish men and their smoking habits (or lack there of) over the course of 12 years. The researchers also followed what men over that course of time had a cataract removed. The research was recently published in the January 2nd online edition of JAMA Ophthalmology.
Cataracts usually develop due to advanced age, but can also form because of disease such as diabetes, or due to the long-term use of alcohol or smoking.
The condition occurs when lumps of protein form on the lens of the eye, causing vision to become blurry. A person with advanced cataracts may be unable to distinguish between purple and blue.
Signs of a cataract may include:
- Blurry or cloudy vision
- Colors aren’t vibrant
- Poor night vision or double vision
- Frequent changes in lens prescription
While these can be signs of a cataract, they can also be symptoms of other eye diseases. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with a board certified ophthalmologist, regardless of your age. While cataracts usually happen later in life, they can occur earlier, especially if you are a smoker or have diabetes.
In addition to quitting smoking, there are some other steps the National Eye Institute recommends to help you prevent or delay the onset of cataracts:
- Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes when outside. Ultraviolet light and prolonged exposure to sunlight may increase the risk of cataracts.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark, leafy greens.
- Schedule routine eye exams
A comprehensive eye exam is the best way to catch cataracts, as well as other eye disease including macular degeneration and glaucoma. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that most people age 6 to 40 receive an eye exam every three years, while those 40 and over have a complete eye exam every 2 years.
Most people with healthy eyes just need to see an optometrist, but those who are at high risk will be referred to an ophthalmologist. To get eye care you deserve, you need a team of eye care professionals with your best interest in mind. Contact your Gainesville provider today if you need to schedule an eye exam or have concerns about smoking and eye health or other eye concerns.