The untimely death of celebrities from cigarette smoking related lung cancer suggests the need to discuss the increased risk factor for several eye diseases in those who smoke; including macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, optic neuropathy and neuritis,and dry eyes.
Cigarette smoking is the single biggest preventable cause of death and disability in developed countries and it is one ofour mostsignificant public health concerns. The literature strongly suggests that the ischemic, toxic, and oxidative effect of cigarette smokingplays an important role in damaging all ocular tissue.
Evidence from a large number ofcase-controlled studies suggests that both current smoking and a history of smoking are associated with a higher risk of age related macular degeneration (AMD). Population based studies alsosupport a strong associationwith cigarette smokingand the progres-sionof dry AMD to neovascular (wet) AMD.Cigarette smoking is strongly suggested in the literature to alter choroidal blood flow and depress the ability of antioxidants to quench damaging free radical formationin the retina.
A meta-analysis of seven peer-reviewed studies published in the June 2004 issue of Public Health suggests that current cigarette smokers are alsoat significantly increased risk of developing primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG).
The July 2005 American Journal of Epidemiology published an alarm-ingprospective studyon women and cigarette smoking that suggests anincreased risk factor for earlycata-ract formation. Other studies suggest that current smokers of 20 or more cigarettes per day are at least twice as likely to develop any type of cataract and three times as likely to develop a particular type of cataract called posterior subcapsular cataract.
There appears to be a direct association between total cigarette consumption and the development of Graves disease (overactive thyroid gland which secretes too much thyroid hormone). When Graves patients aresmokers, they have nearly aneight-fold-increased risk of developing serious eye complications compared with nonsmoking Graves patients.
Smoking accelerates the development of eye complications and retino-pathiesassociated with diabetes. A possible mechanism leading to damaged blood vesselsin the diabetic eye is smoking-induced hypoxia.
It has recently been discovered that smoking is a significant risk factor for developing optic neuropathy, which can result in sudden, painless loss of vision, often leading to permanent blindness.
Peer-reviewed and published studies link changes in tear filmproteins in dry eye patients who smoke cigarettes, as well as an elevation of neurotrophin levels in the tears of dry eye patients exposed tosecond handsmoke from cigarettes.
The July 2005 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) calculated national estimates of annual smoking-attributable mortality (SAM), years of potential life lost (YPLL) for adults and infants, and productivity losses for adults.
The findings indicated that between the years of1997-2001, cigarette smoking and exposure to tobacco smoke resulted in 438,000 premature deaths in the United States, the loss of 5.5 million years of potential life, and the annual loss of92 billion dollars in productivity.
Recent CDC estimates arethatfive million people died world-wide from cigarette smoking in the year 2000. And that number is suggested to exceed 10 million deaths a year by the year 2020.
The chart belowis taken from the CDC site and represents the current number ofannual premature deaths from smoking vs. deaths from other causes.