Smoking, Socioeconomic Status Linked to Cataracts

SINGAPORE – A survey done by researchers from Singapore and Australia has found that smokers and people of low socioeconomic status had a higher prevalence of certain types of cataracts. In this survey, researchers administered thorough eye exams designed to diagnose cataracts and interview questionnaires to more than three thousand Malay adults in Singapore.

After the researchers adjusted for age, sex, BMI, high blood pressure, and diabetes, they found that the subjects who currently smoke tobacco were more likely to have cataracts. In addition, individuals lacking secondary education or having low monthly income were more likely to have nuclear cataract and those living in small public housing units were more likely to have posterior subcapsular cataract.

The researchers also concluded that smoking could be blamed for about one in every six nuclear cataract cases in the survey. Previous studies of (mostly white) American, European, and Australian populations have already linked smoking to the prevalence and progression of cataracts. However, the Singapore survey raises serious concerns because smoking has increased significantly in Asia in the past few decades.

In fact, the 14% of Singapore’s 4.1 million people who smoke represent the smallest smoker percentage in Asia. In comparison, about 60% of men across Asia are smokers and sales figures suggest this number is on the rise. Singapore’s low incidence of smoking is likely due to a total ban on cigarette advertising that began in 1971.

To learn more about cataracts and smoking, consult an ophthalmologist near you.