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Subspecialties Glaucoma, Health Economics and Policy

Smoke Zero

Credit: collage images sourced from Unsplash.com and Rawpixel.com

Smoking has had a rollercoaster century in scientific research, from a declaration of safety in the early 20th century to its downward trajectory after proof that it can cause lung cancer and contribute to many other health conditions. We know that smoking increases the risk and progression of glaucoma, but does stopping have any effect? Research from the Hamilton Glaucoma Center at the University of California San Diego, USA, goes some way toward answering this question, with data showing that former heavy smokers who had quit at least 25 years previously had a risk of visual field progression similar to that of people who had never smoked (1).

The researchers used data from primary open-angle glaucoma patients with the aim of observing the relationship between how early someone stops smoking and the rate of visual field progression in glaucoma – and how much early quitting can spare the optic nerve from damage. They also found that smoking intensity was associated with faster visual field loss and that heavy smokers with fewer than 25 years cigarette-free were significantly more likely to have visual field loss progression than people who had never smoked. It’s apparent that disease progression correlates with smoking intensity, and that quitting not only improves outcomes, but can turn back the clock of visual field progression risk to that of someone who has never touched a cigarette.

The pile of research suggesting that not smoking or giving it up early in life can reduce the risk of losing vision continues to grow…

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  1. G Mahmoudinezhad et al., J Glaucoma, [Online ahead of print] (2022). PMID: 35939832.
About the Author
Geoffrey Potjewyd

Associate Editor, The Ophthalmologist

The lion’s share of my PhD was spent in the lab, and though I mostly enjoyed it (mostly), what I particularly liked was the opportunity to learn about the latest breakthroughs in research. Communicating science to a wider audience allows me to scratch that itch without working all week only to find my stem cell culture has given up the ghost on the Friday (I’m not bitter). Fortunately for me, it turns out writing is actually fun – so by working for Texere I get to do it every day, whilst still being an active member of the clinical and research community.

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