Smoking affects every organ in the body, including the eyes. The respiratory and circulatory health effects of cigarettes are well-known and include an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and lung cancer. However, the harmful effects of cigarette smoking on the eyes are generally less known.
If you or someone close to you is thinking about kicking the habit, here is some information that you don’t want to ignore about smoking and eyesight.
Smoking increases the risk for cataracts.
Cataracts are one of the main causes of blindness in the world. More than half of Americans will have a cataract or have had cataract surgery by the time they are 80 years old. There are several reasons why cataracts occur, including aging, injuries or genetic disorders that change the tissues in the eye.
Smoking also increases the chances for developing cataracts. The more you smoke, the higher your risk. In fact, heavy smokers who smoke 15 cigarettes a day or more are three times more likely to develop cataracts compared to nonsmokers. Quitting smoking can significantly cut these risks down.
Smoking raises the risk for macular degeneration.
People who smoke cigarettes are three to four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in their lifetime. Even nonsmokers who live with smokers have almost double the risk of getting AMD than those who are not around cigarette smoke.
AMD is serious and affects the center of the retina, making it difficult to see clearly. People often experience blind spots that interfere with reading, driving and other activities. Stopping smoking at any age can dramatically reduce the risk for developing AMD, so it’s never too late to stop.
Smoking can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
Diabetic retinopathy damages the blood vessels in the retina, leading to vision loss. Diabetic retinopathy is found in people who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, which are diseases that affect blood glucose levels in the body. There are dozens of risk factors for diabetes, and one of them is smoking.
Smoking can double the risk for developing type 2 diabetes and lead to more serious complications, such as heart disease, kidney disease, neuropathy and retinopathy. The more you smoke, the more progressive diabetic retinopathy is. Quitting smoking today can literally save your life – and your eyesight.
Smoking increases the chances for uveitis.
Uveitis is inflammation in the eye’s middle layer, and it can lead to permanent vision loss. This serious eye condition harms the structure of the eye and causes cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers are more likely to have uveitis than nonsmokers because smoking causes widespread inflammation in the body.
Some people think that it’s too late to quit smoking, or that the damage has already been done, but this isn’t true at all. Quitting smoking at any age can reduce your risk for developing sight-stealing diseases, including the ones listed above. You can also enjoy a healthier lifestyle and improved quality of life. For more information on how to quit smoking, visit smokefree.gov.