Smoking Among Hispanic Americans Poses Serious Risks to Vision Health

Smoking Among Hispanic Americans Poses Serious Risks to Vision Health

Risk of Smoking-Related Eye Diseases on the Rise

Washington, D.C. (December 10, 2007) – As debilitating vision disorders are increasingly linked to smoking, health officials are especially concerned that high rates of smoking among Hispanic Americans puts them at serious risk for major eye problems. At the time of year when people are making resolutions to improve their health, the Vision Council of America (VCA) today urged Hispanic Americans to protect themselves from vision problems that are triggered by smoking.

“People assume that the primary diseases linked to smoking are lung cancer, heart disease and respiratory issues, but smoking causes major eye problems as well,” says optometrist Marie Carmen Perez-Blanco, O.D. “The links are scientifically proven, and the risks can no longer go unheeded, especially for Hispanic Americans, who suffer the highest rates of uncorrected vision problems nationwide.”

While the rate of smoking among Hispanic American adults (16 percent) is lower than the national average (21 percent), this population is at greater risk for developing vision problems. Hispanic Americans are less likely than other Americans to have access to medical care and to receive regular eye exams or smoking cessation treatments.

Smoking is the second leading cause of cataracts, and smokers develop cataracts 10-15 years sooner than nonsmokers, on average, according to VCA. Smoking is also identified as a primary risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. Heavy smokers (a pack of cigarettes a day or more) have two to three times the risk of developing this disease.

“Armed with this knowledge, Hispanic Americans can do two things that will immediately improve their health,” says Dr. Perez-Blanco. “Those who smoke can quit immediately, and get regular eye exams,” she says, adding that lesions and other problems can lead to permanent vision loss if they are not caught in time. “By getting regular eye exams, people can save themselves and their families immeasurable pain and suffering.”

Aside from visiting an eye doctor for an eye exam, there are several warning signs of potential vision disorders. VCA recommends that Hispanic Americans be vigilant of the following symptoms of eye problems:

  • Trouble seeing objects at near or far distances
  • Colors that seem faded
  • Poor night vision (increase in glare and halos)
  • Double or multiple vision
  • Loss of peripheral (side) vision
  • Redness and discomfort from a fleshy growth over the eye surface