Quitting Smoking Lowered Risk for Cataract Removal

Smoking cessation lowered risk of cataract extraction but higher risk still remained years after quitting

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

(RxWiki News) Smoking can contribute to the development of many health issues, including vision problems like cataracts (causes cloudy vision), but research is showing that quitting can help to lower that risk.

A recent study found that men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes per day were able to cut their risk for cataract removal in half after 20 years of not smoking.

The authors of this study noted, however, that the risk of cataract removal still remained high for many years after quitting.

"Get help to quit smoking."

This study was led by Birgitta Ejdervik Lindblad, MD, PhD, from the Department of Ophthalmology at Örebro University Hospital in Sweden. This research team determined the risk of having to get a cataract surgically removed after quitting smoking in a group of Swedish men.

These researchers analyzed data from 44,731 men between the ages of 45 and 79 years old in the Cohort of Swedish Men. Study participants were followed for over a period of 12 years. To be included in the study, participants could not have a diagnosis of cancer before the study began, could not have already had a cataract surgically removed and had to have reported information on smoking status.

Several factors were taken into account that could have influenced cataract removal risk, including a diagnosis of diabetes or hypertension, use of corticosteroid medications, alcohol consumption, use of vitamin supplements, body mass index (a measure of height and weight) and education level.

A total of 5,713 men had a cataract surgically removed. About 25 percent of study participants were current smokers, 39 percent were former smokers, and 36 percent had never smoked.

The researchers found that when age was taken into account, study participants who had ever smoked had a 21 percent increased risk of having to get a cataract surgically removed when compared to men who had never smoked.

When all of the factors were taken into account, the researchers found that men who had ever smoked had an 18 percent increased risk of having to get a cataract surgically removed when compared to men who had never smoked.

Information was also collected on smoking intensity, which was measured as the average number of cigarettes smoked per day during a lifetime.

The researchers found that for current smokers who smoked more than 15 cigarettes per day, there was a 42 percent increased risk of having to get a cataract removed compared to men who never smoked. For smokers who smoked 15 cigarettes per day or more and quit, this risk dropped to 21 percent 20 years after they quit. For men who had gone more than 20 years without smoking, this risk dropped to 13 percent.

The study's authors noted that while giving up smoking reduced the risk for cataract removal, the risk remained high for former smokers for several years after they quit.

These authors concluded that strategies need to be developed to promote smoking cessation, and more importantly, to prevent smoking initiation.

This study was published on January 2 in JAMA Opthalmology.

The study authors reported no potential competing interests.

Review Date: 
January 1, 2014
Last Updated:
January 3, 2014