A new disease may soon be added to the list of conditions caused by cigarette smoking. A study has found that males who smoke cigarettes are at a significantly higher risk for developing ocular sarcoidosis, a disease that causes inflammation in the eyes and can lead to permanent blindness.

In the study, which was presented at the 2014 American Thoracic Society International Conference, researchers analyzed 109 sarcoidosis patients, 21 of which had ocular sarcoidosis, the press release reported. The volunteers’ age, race, sex, smoking status, quality of tobacco exposure, date of diagnosis, and history of ocular sarcoidosis was recorded. "Accordingly, we reviewed the cases of 109 patients with biopsy-proven sarcoidosis and identified independent risk factors for developing ocular morbidity,” Dr. Adam Janot, lead author of the study, explained in the press release. It was found that 71.4 percent of patients with ocular sarcoidosis were smokers and of those 95 percent were male. Based on these numbers researchers concluded that being a male smoker made you seven times more likely to develop the ocular form of the condition.

The largely unheard of condition, also called sarcoid, can be life-altering for those it afflicts. The disease was brought to public attention when the famous comedian Bernie Mac, who was suffered with the condition in his lungs, tragically died from it in 2008. "I felt so alone when I was diagnosed," Cindy Paris, a woman who also suffers from the condition, explained to The Gaylord Herald Times. "I had never heard of sarcoid and never knew anyone who had it. I asked the doctor if I was going to die and he said, 'If you don't have an accident first, eventually the sarcoid will take your life,'" Paris added.

This is the first study to have made this link between male smokers being at a higher risk for developing sarcoidosis of the eyes. "If confirmed in other studies, this information may give some insight into the pathology of the disease, can be useful in guiding treatment, and it adds ocular sarcoidosis to the numerous adverse health consequences of tobacco use," Janot added. Previous risk factors found to contribute to the developing any forms of sarcoidosis are age, race, and family history. Individuals between the ages of 20 to 40, African Americans, and those with a history of sarcoidosis are at a higher risk of developing the condition in all areas of their bodies.

Sarcoidosis can affect the lungs, eyes, kidneys, heart, and nervous system. It is the growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells in different parts of your body. The condition is believed to be caused by the body’s immune system responding to an unknown substance, similar to what occurs to a person with allergies. There is currently no cure for the sarcoidosis and it usually is able to resolve on its own. In more severe cases the condition can persist for years and lead to organ damage. Ocular sarcoidosis affects between 25-50 percent of patients with the condition and can lead to permanent blindness.

Source: Janot AC, Huscher D, Walker M, et al. Cigarette Smoking And Male Sex Are Independent Risk Factors For Ocular Sarcoidosis. ATS Journals. 2014