Of course, we are all aware of the damage that smoking can do to the body from heart disease to cancer. But did you know that smoking can impact your vision too? Researchers have found smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome. Smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) affects the retina and can impact your central vision needed for everyday tasks such as reading books or driving a car. AMD is the leading cause of permanent vision loss among Americans age 65 and older. Research has shown that smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers. Female smokers over age 80 are 5.5 times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers of the same age. And if you live with someone who smokes, you almost double your risk of developing AMD.
Smoking and Cataracts
Cataracts, the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Smokers considerably increase their risk of developing cataracts compared with non-smokers. According to a study by Harvard, people who smoke double their risk of forming cataracts. And heavy smokers, (15 cigarettes a day or more) have up to three times the risk of cataracts as nonsmokers. The more you smoke the greater chance you have of developing cataracts.
Smoking and Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve and can result in vision loss and blindness. There is a strong link between smoking and high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes all of which are risk factors for glaucoma.
Smoking and Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy damages the blood vessels of the retina and can result in vision loss. Approxiamately, 4.2 million Americans have diabetic retinopathy due to type 1 or type 2 diabetes according to a study done by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A Diabetes Care study showed smoking doubles diabetes risk. Many people with the condition also develop retinopathy, which can damage vision. It can also make managing diabetes more difficult if you already have it. Complications of diabetes made worse by smoking include retinopathy, heart, vascular and kidney disease, nerve damage and many others.
Smoking and Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is when you don’t have enough tears on the eye’s surface to keep the eye lubricated. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may feel itchy, scratchy and have a burning sensation. According to a recent University of Wisconsin study dry eye syndrome is more than twice as likely to impact smokers as non-smokers.
If you smoke, see your eye doctor.
Because your vision can be negatively impacted by smoking, it is very important to visit your eye doctor regularly. At Ophthalmic Consultants of the Capital Region, we recommend having an annual comprehensive eye exam.
And remember, it’s never too late to quit smoking. The benefits are great—a healthier lifestyle and a healthier body. Quitting smoking at any age can reduce your risk of developing many sight-threatening eye conditions.
Visit www.smokefree.gov to get started, or see your doctor, who can recommend other methods to help you live a tobacco-free life.