Smokers unaware of multiple risks to eye health

Leigh Spielberg

Posted: Sunday, September 8, 2019

Professor Caroline Klaver
“PATIENTS seem more likely to consider the risk of blindness as a better reason to quit smoking than the risk of dying,” said Professor Caroline Klaver, Rotterdam University Medical Center, the Netherlands. “And yet, many smokers are not aware of their habit’s risk of eye disease, so I believe it is our responsibility as ophthalmologists to inform them.”
Dr Klaver addressed delegates during the EURETINA session on the epidemiology of retinal disease at the 19th Annual EURETINA Congress in Paris on Friday morning.
Smoking is known to significantly increase the risk of retinal arterial branch occlusions eightfold. The risks of developing both neovascular AMD and geographic atrophy, as well as Graves’ orbitopathy, optic neuropathy, intermediate uveitis and dry eye are also increased in smokers.
“The synergistic effect of smoking and genetic risk is particularly strong,” said Dr Klaver, increasing the risk by about 50% compared to non-smokers. The risks to eye health can even start before birth: maternal smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of strabismus in offspring by 50%, although the pathogenesis is unknown.
“Despite these risks, only about 40% of eye patients who smoke are aware of smoking-related eye diseases,” she said, citing a study performed by the UK National Health Service.