This common medical condition -- in which the lens of the eye becomes progressively cloudy -- is a leading cause of impaired vision. But researchers in Sweden found that middle-aged men who smoked at least 15 cigarettes per day could lower their risk for cataracts over the course of two decades if they quit smoking.
"Smoking cessation may decrease the risk of cataract, but the risk among former smokers persists for decades. Since smoking is also related to other [eye] diseases, strategies to prevent smoking and promote smoking cessation are important, and eye care professionals should encourage people to stop smoking," Dr. Birgitta Ejdervik Lindblad, of Orebro University Hospital, and colleagues concluded in their report.
The study, published in the Jan. 2 online edition of JAMA Ophthalmology, involved a group of Swedish men ranging in age from 45 to 79 years. The researchers examined the link between quitting smoking and more than 5,700 cases of cataract removal over the course of 12 years.
The study findings showed that men who smoked more than 15 cigarettes daily had a 42 percent higher risk of undergoing cataract removal than men who never smoked. Over time, however, quitting smoking can reduce that risk, the study authors pointed out in a journal news release.
The researchers found that more than 20 years after quitting, men who had smoked an average of more than 15 cigarettes per day had only a 21 percent greater risk for having a cataract removed than those who never smoked.
The U.S. National Eye Institute has more about cataracts.