Why Smoking Makes You a Likely Candidate for Retinal Disease

The negative health effects of smoking on the heart and lungs are well-known. Cigarette smoke is a toxin, containing thousands of active compounds such as tar, formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, and heavy metals. What some people don’t realize is that these toxins can also affect other parts of the body such as the eyes. People who smoke cigarettes are much more likely to develop cataracts, vision loss, and macular degeneration.

Raising the Risk of Eye Disease

Researchers have discovered that how much you smoke is strongly linked to the development of eye conditions like cataracts. Smokers have double the risk of cataracts as non-smokers, and heavy smokers have triple the risk. The reason why is because smoking alters the cells of the lens. It may also increase heavy metals in the lens.

In the case of macular degeneration, smokers have a 2-4 times greater risk for developing the condition. The more you smoke, the more likely you are to develop macular degeneration. Smoking decreases blood flow to the macula, the part of the retina that allows us to see fine details. As the macula wears out from not being properly nourished, you may notice signs like blurriness or blind spots. It’s also possible that smoking may lead to oxidation on the macula’s cells.

Aside from cataracts and macular degeneration, there are other eye conditions that smoking raises the risk for. These include:

● Dry eyes
● Optic nerve damage
● Diabetic retinopathy
● Lazy eye
● Conjunctivitis

Quitting Smoking NOW Can Lower Your Risk

If you want to avoid the adverse health effects that come with smoking, there is hope. The damage is not completely done, and quitting today will improve your chances of avoiding retinal disease, among many other health conditions. For instance, studies show that quitting smoking reduces the risk for macular degeneration by 6.7 percent after 1 year. The risk for cataracts are also reduced, though much slower.

One of the best investments you can make for your health is to stop smoking if you are a smoker and avoid being around secondhand smoke. Not only will you enjoy better vision and eye health but also a healthier heart and lungs.