Vision Loss Linked to Drinking, Smoking, Lifestyle

Alcohol in moderation with active lifestyle and no smoking best for eyes study shows

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Lifestyle habits like tobacco and alcohol consumption along with level of physical activity have wide-reaching impacts on health.

In a new study, researchers examined how those modifiable behaviors can potentially impact vision.

Researchers found an apparent link between how the three variables—smoking, drinking and exercise—can affect eye health.

The new study indicates smokers and people who live a sedentary lifestyle have a higher chance of developing age-related vision problems when compared to more active people and non-smokers.

"Discuss with your doctor how lifestyle habits impact vision."

Dr. Ronald Klein, MD, MPH of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, led the research.

Klein and study co-authors analyzed data from an initial group of 4,926 participants aged between 43 and 86 and collected between 1988 and 1990.

More information was gathered in follow-up eye exams and lifestyle surveys in four additional session with the most recent from 2008-2010.

Central to the research was administering the familiar eye chart exam, which measures visual impairment based on the number of letters clearly visible to the test subject.

Dr. Klein found that over the 20-year period, 5.4 percent of study participants showed visual impairment equating to a loss of 6.6 letters from the chart.

Being a current or past smoker was related to a greater change in the number of letters lost, the study found.

Participants who had not consumed alcohol in the past year and sedentary people had a higher than normal chance of visual impairment when compared to those who drank occasionally and led active lifestyles.

Focusing on women already exhibiting age-related vision loss, Dr. Klein found that ladies who drank occasionally and were physically active had a 5.9 percent chance of developing visual impairment.

Women who had not consumed any alcohol for a year and were also sedentary had a 25.8 percent chance of developing visual impairment over the 20-year study period.

After adjustments for age, income, and AMD severity, a physically active lifestyle was associated with an approximately 60 percent reduction in the odds for incidence of visual impairment over a 20-year period, compared to a sedentary lifestyle.

Dr. Klein concluded: “Three modifiable behaviors—smoking, drinking alcohol, and physical activity—were associated with changes in vision.”

The study was published online March 3 in the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s journal Ophthalmology.

Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health and data analysis support by Research to Prevent Blindness.

The authors did not report and financial or other relevant conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 28, 2014
Last Updated:
March 29, 2014