Smoking has been long known to cause heart disease and lung cancer, however, many people don’t realize that it also has an impact on the eyesight. Research shows that smoking increases the risk for age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome.
If you are a smoker, your vision is one more reason to quit. Talk to your doctor about ways you can break this habit. In the meantime, here’s how smoking can negatively impact your vision.
Why Smoking is Bad for the Eyes
Just as smoke is bad for your body, it’s bad for your eyes. Tobacco smoke is a known eye irritant that worsens dry eye and damages the blood vessels. According to the CDC, if you are a smoker, you are twice as likely to develop AMD and two to three times as likely to develop cataracts compared to non-smokers.
Not only is smoking bad for you but also your baby if you are pregnant. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are five times more likely to get bacterial meningitis as a child which can cause eye infections and other vision problems. Smoking while pregnant also increases the risk for premature birth, and this can lead to retinopathy of prematurity.
Eye Conditions that Can Occur from Smoking
Smoking significantly increases the chances that you’ll get certain eye diseases. By cutting back or quitting completely, you can preserve your vision and lower your chances of getting one of the following:
- Age-related macular degeneration. Macular degeneration causes “blind spots” that impair central vision. Smokers are three to four times more likely to get AMD than non-smokers.
- Cataracts. Heavy smokers have three times the risk of developing cataracts, or clouding of the lens. Cataracts can cause blurred vision and blindness.
- Glaucoma. This condition happens when there’s damage to the optic nerve. There is a strong link between high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes – and all three are risk factors for glaucoma.
- Diabetic retinopathy. Smoking increases the likelihood of getting diabetes, which raises the risk for diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy further damages the blood vessels of the retina and causes vision loss.
- Dry eye syndrome. Smoke irritates the eyes and can cause them to become dry and irritated, complicating dry eye syndrome.
What You Can Do to Preserve Your Vision
Healthy habits promote a healthy body and healthy vision. The best thing you can do for yourself is quit smoking. You can call a “quit smoking” hotline or talk to your doctor about therapies and medications that can help you quit. You should also focus on eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol.
Lastly, don’t forget to visit your eye doctor for regular exams. Eye specialists can catch problems early on before they steal your vision. If you’re concerned about damage done to your eyes from smoking, schedule an appointment with Empire Retina Consultants today.