Life can be complicated and unpredictable. Smoking may have been an anchor in the storm, the friend who never left you, a reward on mundane days, or your escape from unpleasant situations. The emotional attachment to the act of smoking is real, long lived and warrants further consideration. Let’s take a look at this important aspect of your Quit, so you can reflect on ways to move towards greater health and wellbeing.
Quitting is all about You taking charge of your health, your choices and your life. You deserve to enjoy your life and be free of old habits that no longer serve you. Think of how happy and confident you will feel as a nonsmoker. Celebrate your freedom from smoking!
Everyone experiences stress and disappointment. Accept this, and learn new ways to relax and unwind that enhance your day to day life experience. Many people spend a lot of time worrying about things that never happen! Stressing on what might happen zaps your energy and joy. Stay in the here and now! Focus on what you can do, and take action. Action reduces stress and increases self confidence. Deal with complications the moment they arise, and let the rest go. Breathe in deep, exhale slowly, and count your blessings. Enjoy all the things around you that you love and care about!
Any lifestyle change has it's ups and downs. Moving, changing jobs, beginning or ending relationships, changes in health status, diet and exercise programs - the list goes on! There is often a grieving process for what was left behind, and that is very normal. Journaling, writing a good bye letter to your old life, and allowing feelings of grief to run it's course are a few helpful ways to cope. It takes time, patience and practice before the new feels as comfortable as the old once did. The secret is you must Keep Going in order to get to the comfortable, successful part! As long as you keep moving forward, you will get to where you want to be. For better or worse, just keep going no matter what happens.
What do you like to do? What inspires you? What makes you laugh? What makes you feel important, special and loved? Seeking joy is the best way to find it! Take time every day to do some things that matter to you and make you happy. Life is too short to spend on autopilot completing tasks. Enjoy yourself!
- May The Quit Be With You!
Surround yourself with support and encouragement from others. Quitting smoking is an exciting and wonderful change you are making for yourself, and there are plenty of cheerleaders standing by! Reach out! gather your support network at home, at work, on line, at the gym, and everywhere you go. The more people who care about your quit success, the better!
Stopping smoking can be an emotional process. Knowing what to expect, and learning how to navigate your feelings effectively will help you live happily and successfully as a nonsmoker. Keep going, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Take the Pledge, and Gather Support From Other Quitters:
It's common knowledge that smoking is bad for your health, especially your heart and lungs. Are you aware of the consequences of smoking and tobacco use on your oral health? Your gums and teeth are the first to bear the onslaught of heat and caustic chemicals when you light up that cigarette. Not only does smoking paint a not so pretty picture, but it also increases your risk of oral cancers and other health problems linked to dental disease. Smoking doesn't stand alone in destroying oral health - all tobacco products are harmful.
Smoking and Those Pearly Whites
Smoking can put a damper on your smile. Smoking stains or discolors teeth, causes bad breath and can lead to tooth loss, all of which affects self-image and confidence. It's the nicotine and tar in tobacco that stain the teeth and eventually builds up in the pores of the enamel, causing tooth discoloration.
The noticeable 'smoker's breath' is from smoke particles and chemicals in tobacco smoke. The heat from smoking dries out the mouth and allows bacteria to grow.
Tobacco smoke reduces blood flow and is toxic to gum tissue. If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco you have a significantly greater risk of getting periodontal (gum) disease - a disease that destroys soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth. With gum disease, pockets form around the teeth and bacteria resides causing infection and inflammation, eventually leading to tooth loss.
Any area in your body that has direct contact with the chemicals in smoke and tobacco is at a higher risk for cancer. For this reason you need to be aware of any changes or sores that persist in your mouth. It's especially important if you smoke or use smokeless tobacco to keep up with regular dentist cleanings and visits, but it's even more vital that you quit for good!
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Research is showing that keeping your gums healthy is good for the rest of your body. Infections in the mouth cause inflammation elsewhere in the body and are linked to heart disease, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and lung infections. If you have diabetes you are more at risk to develop periodontal disease, which can raise blood sugar and cause other complications. It doesn't stop there; poor oral health is also linked to Alzheimer’s disease and low weight or premature babies.
Lifestyle has a lot to do with your oral health. Make healthy choices in your diet, keep flossing and brushing, and if you smoke make quitting your number one priority. Quitting smoking is a lifestyle change that can only benefit your overall health.
Keep Smiling and Keep the Quit!
Have you ever entered a room and smelled that stale cigarette smell? That was the leftover residue from previously smoked butts, the byproduct of secondhand smoke called thirdhand smoke.
Tar, nicotine, and the chemicals in smoke cling onto indoor surfaces such as furniture, upholstery, carpets and walls. In closed spaces, the air pollutants from tobacco smoke enter your lungs and irritate them. Tobacco residue not only lingers on surfaces, it also remains on fingers, teeth, clothing and hair. It is important to understand that both secondhand and thirdhand smoke can damage your health, but that thirdhand smoke affects the environment long after the smoker has left. There is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke.
Thirdhand smoke affects the quality of the air we breathe. Tobacco smoke contains 7,000 chemicals, including many carcinogens. Research shows that even after five hours, tobacco particles remain present in the air. They eventually join other indoor pollutants to create a toxic mix. People who come in contact with thirdhand smoke by touching, ingesting or inhaling any of the particles, are increasing their risk of developing a tobacco-related health problem. Children and pets are particularly susceptible to this invisible coating of tar and toxins. Tobacco odor can also be a relapse trigger for most ex-smokers.
How to eliminate thirdhand smoke from your environment
The best way to eliminate thirdhand smoke from your environment is to create a nonsmoking space for yourself, and then staunchly defend it from smokers. Layers of residue from thirdhand smoke accumulate over time, and the combination of particles and tar is difficult to remove. Outlined below are suggestions you can add to your quit plan to eliminate thirdhand smoke from your space:
Make your home, car, office a smoke-free environment.
- Wipe down the tables and other surfaces where you used to smoke.
Throw away any clothes, tablecloths, fabric that contains heavy tobacco smell. Replace with fresh new items.
Have your car professionally cleaned. Most professional car wash centers use professional cleaning products that help eliminate stubborn tobacco odor.
If your budget permits, replace your carpet or have your carpet professionally cleaned.
Stay away from designated smoking areas.
Consider using an air purifier to clean the air in a room.
Removing the thirdhand smoke from your environment is an excellent way to begin a quit, for you and all your loved ones. Your home will be freer from toxins and tobacco tar, and feel fresh and clean. Stay focused and remember that quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health! Keep the quit!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
I quit smoking seventy-two days ago, and for the first time I'm not sure I'm going to make it.
I smoked proudly for fifteen years. I started as an occasional smoker, but over time I needed more and more nicotine (I later learned that most addicts develop dose tolerance to their addictive substances). By the time I quit, I was smoking three packs per day, every day. I smoked during meetings, while walking or driving or eating meals. I woke up in the middle of the night to have a cigarette, and even kept one burning in an ashtray on the toilet tank while I showered, or on the bed stand while making love. I considered myself a smoker's smoker, and couldn't imagine life without cigarettes. Until I met Mary, that is.
Mary was cool, confident, smart and lovely, certainly out of my league, and I immediately fell in love with her. I had to have her. There was one problem with Mary, though -- she was a non-smoker. And not the self-righteous, moralistic type of non-smoker I'd been avoiding for years, either. No, Mary vehemently and absolutely hated tobacco, with a passion I'd never seen. Tobacco had killed her mother, and she held a big-time grudge against it. She made no bones about her refusal to date any smoker, ever.
My self-image hung in the balance. If I entertained any notion at all of hooking up with Mary, I would have to quit smoking. Telling myself that I'd stay quit only long enough to win her heart, and resume smoking sometime after that, I went online to look for quit-smoking info. I registered at a quit-smoking website, picked a quit-smoking date, and announced to everyone that I was quitting -- including Mary, who hugged me at the news!
Being a heavy smoker, I figured I was in for a rough nicotine detox, but decided to quit cold-turkey, anyway. Partially because I wanted to be tough about quitting, but also because it cost $50 for a hundred count of nicotine gum. $50! Never mind that a carton of smokes runs almost twice that; I needed them. Besides, the drama of a severe withdrawal could maybe get me some special attention from Mary... .
Day One wasn't bad at all. I fidgeted a lot, and drummed my fingers madly against things. I kept putting my hands to my mouth, expecting something to be there for me. I sucked on a ton of Lifesavers, but had no overwhelming urge to smoke. Quitting seemed do-able.
Day Two was a little more intense. Mary called to cheer me on and tell me how proud she was of me. My nose started running a bit, and I developed a headache. Felt like I might be coming down with a cold, but suffered only a few severe cravings to smoke. Despite the physical discomfort, and trouble getting to sleep at night, I thought that people were making too big a deal out of quitting smoking.
By Day Three I was a space cadet. I laughed uncontrollably, as if I was stoned on acid. Colors seemed very intense, and my brain raced wildly with bizarre thoughts. (My doctor later said I was experiencing a sustained rush of new oxygen to the brain). My whole body ached, and someone at the quit-smoking website wrote that I'd probably contracted the 'Quit Flu'. I obsessed non-stop about either smoking or not smoking, and became painfully aware of every lit cigarette within sight or smell.
And then a blow to my motivation, on Day Four: Mary left the country with her family, and wouldn't be back for two months! So much for her shoulder to lean on while I quit. A part of me whispered, "You can smoke now and re-quit later, and she'll never know," but I decided to soldier on and have more smoke-free weeks quit under my belt when she returned.
By Day Twenty I was already feeling better. I still wasn't sleeping much (my sleep patterns wouldn't stabilize for another month or two), and I was coughing up a lot of brown goo, but the flu-like symptoms were gone and I was going hours at a time without thinking about a cigarette.
And so it went. I sailed through my quit, noting one surprise benefit of quitting after another. Sleep deprived or not, I felt more alert and like I was really in my body. I took morning walks, and during one of them I suddenly wanted to run. It was exhilarating! I joined the Y, and started lifting weights. I wondered why people seemed to be wearing stronger cologne and perfume lately, until I realized that my sense of smell was returning. When I did have a smoking urge, I logged in to my quit-site and distracted myself. I finally stopped spitting up old lung tar, too, and noted that my wallet always had a lot more cash in it. Why had I never tried quitting before? Doing so had triggered changes in many areas of my life; I even made a couple of new ex-smoking friends, and began thinking of myself as an ex-smoker.
Until this morning, that it is. Mary got back from her long family vacation and introduced me to Mark, her new boyfriend. That was bad. Worse, he reeked of cigarettes! Filthy, stinking cigarettes. I was stunned. After a short, awkward silence, I blurted out something like, "Glad to meet you and by the way I'm still not smoking," and beat a hasty retreat. I felt betrayed. What was Mary's problem? Why would she sell out her values for love? How could she do this to me, after I'd changed my smoking life to be with her (though I never did tell her that, truth be told)? My thoughts turned to smoking. "I'll show her," I resolved. "Screw this quit."
So here I am on Day Seventy-two, and my motivation for quitting is gone. I'm at the convenience store, counting out bills for a pack of my old deadly comfort. In walks one of my new ex-smoking friends. She smiles, sees the pack and the wallet in my hands, and looks at me, silent. "They're not for me," I reply to her unasked question. In that moment I get some clarity. Cigarettes really are not for me, not any more. I'm about to punish myself because I'm upset with Mary? How can I blame her for selling out to follow her heart, anyway? Hadn't I sold out my smoking values to follow mine? Hasn't that been working out pretty well for me?
My quit isn't about Mary, and it never was. She may have been my inspiration to change, but it was my decision and my effort that got me to this place. The benefits of my new, healthier lifestyle are mine alone. I've earned them, and I'm not going to throw them away just because I got my expectations dashed.
I hand the cigarettes back to the clerk and buy a roll of Lifesavers, instead. I walk out of the store with my friend, still smoke-free. I didn't get the girl in the end, but I got a lot more than I expected. Seems I'm the fish I've been trying to catch all along (and quitting smoking was the hook).
Alan Q, CTTS-M
A wonderful New Year is upon us. Will your days be smoke-free? This time of year is full of potential relapse triggers, so take some time today to set yourself up for success.
The secret to having stress-free fun is giving yourself permission to do only things that are relaxing and wonderful to you! Commit to saying 'No' to anything that you don't have a heartfelt interest in doing.
Choose your activities wisely. Take some well-deserved time off. Do whatever you feel like doing. You may want to just hang out in your house alone for once. Maybe you're a 'go out and mingle with the crowds' person; here are some smoke-free things you could do:
- See a movie matinee with a friend.
- Enjoy a pedicure or manicure.
- Drive through decorated neighborhoods, stop for dessert on the way home.
- Go to dinner somewhere new.
- Visit someone special.
- Volunteer wherever your heart leads you (hospital, animal shelter, elderly neighbor, local shop).
- Buy yourself new, warm flannel sheets and sleep in!
- Go out to breakfast by yourself.
Plan ahead. Choose how you want to spend your time! Learn to say 'No' to things that pressure or obligate you needlessly. Give yourself the gift of smoke-free happiness, today and throughout the New Year!
Keep going, and KTQ!
Vikki Q CTTS-M; Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Have a Smoke-Free and Happy New Year at the Q:
No matter how busy you are this holiday season, be sure to keep your quit going strong! Around this time of year, some quitters may find themselves losing momentum. You may be second guessing your reasons for quitting, or feeling overwhelmed by a seemingly endless to-do list. Rest assured, life is not getting in the way of your quit; this is life! Moving forward as a nonsmoker means keeping the quit regardless of what is happening to you or around you.
Reaffirm your commitment to keep your quit going no matter what. Make sure your quit stays your number one priority. Reflect on why being a nonsmoker matters to you, how far you have come and what it took to get here. If you do have a craving or weak moment, address your feelings! What do you really want? Are you seeking comfort, reward, assistance, sleep, enjoyment, social interaction, or a break? Stress free living requires flexibility. There is nothing wrong with giving yourself permission to change plans or take a time out to relax. Celebrate the new habits you have worked so hard to put in place. You have made it this far, so that means you have a successful smoke-free daily routine in place. Acknowledge how awesome you are for quitting smoking. You did it - you actually did it this time! You are amazing, and so is your quit.
Reviewing your quit progress and celebrating your accomplishments ensures your continued success during stressful times. Staying motivated will help prevent relapse. Remember that at this very moment, you are quit; Congratulations! Cherish your quit and commit to spending the holiday season as a nonsmoker this year. As a nonsmoker, you continue to gain:
- Healthier lungs
- A reduced risk of cancer
- Increased longevity
- More energy to enjoy life
- A healthier smile and fresh breath
- Better immunity to fight off colds and flu
- More money to spend on things you need or want
- More time to spend doing things that matter to you
- More time with the people you care about
- Freedom from guilt or pressure about smoking; you're finally free!
- Increased self confidence
- Fresh air around you, your home and your vehicle
- Prettier skin
- Improved mood
- Decreased stress
Those are a lot of gifts to appreciate. Keep giving yourself the best gift of all; a smoke-free life! Keep up the good work, keep going, and KTQ:)
Vikki CTTS-M Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Friends don't let friends Quit alone:
The time of the year from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is loaded with triggers to smoke. A successful quit depends on your ability to remain focused on your goal of a smoke-free life. This is no easy task, especially for the newly quit. The holiday distractions and being with people in places where you used to smoke can lure you back into old habits and lifestyle. Be prepared and get your game plan in place before the festivities begin.
Keep Your Stress Levels In Check
Holiday travel, traffic, shopping, finances, and family issues can pile on the stress and trigger strong cravings to smoke. Do your holiday shopping early and stay within your budget to prevent debt-incurred stress. Homemade gifts or planning a family draw for a gift exchange will keep the costs down but still express the sentiment. Plan your trips, give yourself plenty of time, and avoid travel during busy traffic hours. Exercise is one of the best stress reducers, so get moving daily to boost your mood, relieve tension and any urges to smoke.
Family members grow, move away, pass away, and sometimes hold grievances against one another. Try to be accepting and understanding. If you find yourself getting stressed at a holiday gathering, just step aside and take a breather by going for a walk and getting fresh air. Or simply take in a few deep breaths, hold, and slowly release. Make sure you take some alone time if the holiday cooking, cleaning, and entertaining are getting to you. A hot relaxing bath or listening to soothing music may be all you need to quiet your mind, focus inward, and calm down.
Don't Overindulge In Food Or Drink
Food often seems to play the biggest role in holiday celebrations. Tables are laden with family members' favorite recipes. Expect the temptations to be looking you square in the eye and make the decision beforehand to enjoy in moderation. If you let yourself go hog wild, it may be easier to give in to other temptations or find yourself craving a cigarette to squelch the over-stuffed feeling in your stomach.
Stay away from or limit drinking alcohol. Your resolve not to smoke dissolves the more you drink, making it easier to slip back to smoking without thinking. Alcohol is a smoking trigger for many, so stick to juices, club soda with a splash of cranberry juice, apple cider or water with lemon. Have a plan in place on how you will navigate your way around the table and bar. Promise yourself a reward for getting through the holiday event smoke-free. By not overindulging in food and alcohol you will remain in control, able to make wise decisions and stay strong in your quit.
Seek Out Support
Going to gatherings or parties where others are smoking can be challenging when you are quitting. It's beneficial to let your friends and family know ahead of time you have quit smoking and ask for their support by not smoking around you. Keep your distance. Watching others smoke can trigger strong cravings to light up. Move away from smoking situations and socialize with nonsmokers. Go outside for fresh air at times when there's no avoiding the smoke. If possible bring a nonsmoking friend or support buddy with you to the holiday event. There's no need to quit alone; with a Smartphone you can always find online quit smoking support in our QuitNet forums or chat rooms. Getting through the holiday season with your quit intact is absolutely do-able with careful planning and support!
Happy Holidays, and KTQ!
November is Diabetes Awareness month and a fitting time to speak of the harmful consequences of smoking cigarettes with diabetes. Awareness is also needed regarding the associated link between smoking and type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a group of diseases which are on the rise, including more than 29 million Americans and 380 million people worldwide. The most familiar types of diabetes are: type 1 -- formerly known as juvenile-onset or insulin dependent diabetes, and the more common type 2 -- formerly called adult-onset or non insulin-dependent diabetes. People who have diabetes have blood sugar levels that are abnormally high because their body doesn't make enough insulin to process the sugar, or can't use it properly.
Over time, diabetes can be wearing on the body and is associated with serious health complications. Presently diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed, and complications reduced. Quitting smoking is especially important in not only the management and reduction of health complications for those with diabetes, but also in reducing a person's risk of getting the disease.
The Negative Impact of Smoking with Diabetes
- Smokers with diabetes tend to have more difficulty with insulin dosing and poorer control over blood sugar levels than non smokers, making management of their disease more difficult.
- Those with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to get heart disease, and the chances of having a stroke are doubled. Smoking worsens and speeds up the growth of plaque build up on the walls of the arteries, causing narrowing and reducing the oxygen and blood supply to the affected areas in the body. Smoking also raises bad cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It's plain to see how smoking with diabetes multiplies the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Diabetes presents a risk for developing long-term complications affecting the eyes (diabetic retinopathy), kidneys (diabetic nephropathy), and nerves (diabetic neuropathy). Smoking will aggravate these conditions and could lead to more serious symptoms and require much more treatment.
Smoking Increases the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
If you are still smoking, here’s another great reason to quit. A smoker’s odds of developing diabetes are 30 to 40 % higher than a nonsmoker's. The longer you smoke, the higher your risk. Smoking raises blood sugar levels. The nicotine and other chemicals in smoke can impair your body's response to insulin and lead to insulin resistance, a precursor for the disease. To prevent diabetes it's necessary to quit smoking, stay physically active, and lose weight if you are overweight or obese.
The Benefits of Quitting Smoking Now
- Better management of blood sugar levels.
- Improvements in insulin sensitivity.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are already a risk factor for those with diabetes.
- Reduces aggravating diabetic complications involving the eyes, kidneys, nerves and vascular system.
- Decreases the chances of premature death.
Diabetes and smoking is a harmful mix. If you smoke, it’s especially important that you stop now to prevent serious health complications. There’s no need to quit alone; you can always find online non-smoking support, or find ex-smokers in your family or circle of friends. If you don’t smoke, continue to keep up the good work and stay that way. Quitting smoking now will benefit your health immediately, whether you have diabetes or not. It's the best thing you can do for your wellbeing!
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!
Have you ever found yourself smoking a cigarette 'out of nowhere' when you had a good stretch of success behind you? If so, welcome to the autopilot zone! You can end up on autopilot when quitting smoking, stopping drinking, or working through other lifelong addictive behavioral patterns.
This experience can create a sense of fear and lack of control. How will you ever quit if you end up back at square one without knowing when, how or why it happened? Great question! Autopilot can take you places you don't want to go. Let's look at the process, so you can move from that all too familiar space of 'What happened?' and back into the driver's seat.
A Red Flag
Be alert as your subconscious begins playing old smoking tapes in the background! You may have a passing thought of smoking when you see an ashtray or an old smoking buddy. You may start reminiscing about smoking; even think you smell or taste it. You may not even register you are having these thoughts, or you may wonder where that thought came from and go about your day.
- TIP: This is the first red flag that smoking has entered your radar. It is not a bad thing, and random thoughts of smoking are quite common long after a person quits. Reaffirm your quit. Acknowledge these thoughts! "I am aware I have had smoking thoughts, and I no longer smoke and have no interest in ever smoking again."
Justification begins! This is where those ignored random thoughts grow into self talk about smoking. Examples:"It has been so long I can have just one...No one cares if I quit, what difference does it make? ...I deserve a reward for ___________." And so on until you start subconsciously planning to smoke.
- TIP: Recognize when you begin justifying smoking, as this puts you on the doorstep of relapse! Prepare an index card with statements and facts that counter your personal justifications, and read it out loud when you start slipping towards smoking. Doing so can keep you on track. Examples: "Have I ever had 'just one'? How has that worked out for me in the past? I love my quit, I am going to honor it How will I feel if I do something else instead right now?" You can also use self talk to tell your addicted mind "I am not falling for this, I know the truth!" or whatever works for you.
At this point, autopilot is engaged. You have lost all conscious awareness of your quit, how long you have been quit, how far you have come, what your quit means to you or how you will feel after you smoke. You have entered the autopilot zone, and your hand is moving towards the cigarette. There may be an actually physical sensation of mental disconnect, a "What the hell, I am going for it" as another part of you is saying "What are you doing?!"
- TIP: Recognize you are entering the zone. Stop Everything. Break autopilot by staring at your hand, as in really stare at it. It is reaching for a cigarette! YOU are reaching for a cigarette! You know on some level you do not want to relapse. Find that place by asking your self "What am I feeling right now? In what ways am I justifying this action is alright? What is the truth about that? What else can I do right at this very minute to get away from here?"
This is your wake up call. You are now actively choosing what to do next. You physically cannot relapse if your hand does not make contact with a cigarette! What are you going to do? Accepting that whatever comes next is your choice builds the foundation for your forever quit! Before you do anything, write down three reasons for your actions.
If you choose not to smoke:
- You successfully recognized your personal signs of relapse, and are navigating them.
- You successfully broke autopilot by learning to stay in the moment, and recognize danger signs
- You made a conscious choice. By choosing not to smoke, you have reaffirmed your commitment to your quit, and this new habit is settling firmly into place. Congrats!
- You identified three awesome motivations to help keep your quit going strong.
If you choose to smoke anyway:
- You successfully recognized your personal signs of relapse, and need to continue practicing the above tips to help you navigate your quit process.
- You successfully broke autopilot by learning to stay in the moment, and recognize danger signs.
- You made a conscious choice. By choosing to smoke, you can now choose Not to smoke; your awareness is growing.
- You identified three justifications or triggers you need to plan ahead for.
This is when a new, conscious tape begins playing in the foreground. By recognizing the signs, you can hear those old tapes start to play, and know it is time to gear up and take charge. You will be able to navigate justifications and steer your thoughts away from the critical stage. As a result, you gain confidence, control and the power of choice!
These steps help train your mind to stay in the moment and choose behaviors you prefer, keep those behaviors going long term, and replace your old habits once and for all with all the healthy new ones you desire.
Stay focused, and KTQ!
Master Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialist
Join the Q for free support & encouragement:
It’s common knowledge that smoking poses serious health risks. No wonder, as tobacco smoke is made up of at least 7000 active chemicals, most of them toxic, including 70 that are known to cause cancer. Let’s face it -- smoking harms every organ in the body. So, what comes to mind when you think about the health effects of smoking tobacco? Heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and emphysema are familiar health risks to most people. Smoking increases the risks for developing eye disorders. Here are some of the visual consequences of smoking.
For Your Eyes Only – More Reasons To Quit Smoking
Cataracts - When a cataract occurs the eye lens becomes cloudy, causing vision problems. Cataracts are common as we age. Smoking reduces the supply of antioxidants in the eyes and increases the risk of getting a cataract. The more you smoke the greater the risk and severity of the cataract. If you smoke a pack or more a day you double your chance of getting a cataract. If you quit smoking you can lower your risk level to almost that of a person who never smoked!
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – AMD involves degenerative changes in the macula, the area of the retina that is responsible for detailed central vision. Vision with AMD may appear distorted, blurred or dark in the center. The central vision loss with AMD can interfere with everyday activities we may take for granted, like reading, driving or seeing faces. Smoking reduces blood flow in the eye and can cause damage to the retina. Studies show smoking triples the risk factor of developing AMD. The risk is increased the more you smoke, and the longer you have smoked. Smoking also affects the nonsmokers who live with smokers by increasing their risk for AMD. Quitting smoking will not only reduce your risk of developing this eye disease, but also keep those you care about safe.
Diabetic retinopathy - Smoking can double your risk of getting diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is an eye complication related to diabetes that can harm vision. In this eye disease the blood vessels that supply the retina become damaged. Smoking increases blood pressure, reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and raises blood sugar if you have diabetes, making it clear that smoking is not only a risk factor for developing the eye disease, but also aggravates the condition by damaging the blood vessels. The best way to avoid the complications of diabetes is to stop smoking, or never start.
Thyroid eye disease (TED) – Graves’ disease is caused by an overactive thyroid gland. A complication of Graves’ is thyroid eye disease. This condition may cause protruding eyes, eye irritation, and vision problems that could lead to blindness. People with Graves’ who smoke not only increase their chances of TED by four times, but also increase the severity of the problem. Graves’ is an immune system disorder and the chemicals in tobacco smoke impair the body’s protective abilities. Giving up the smokes for good is imperative to protect your eyes.
Eye Irritation - Tobacco smoke can aggravate conditions such as dry eye syndrome, which is caused by a chronic lack of sufficient tears on the surface of the eye, with smokers being twice as likely to get it. Tobacco smoke irritates the eyes and can cause a feeling of burning, scratching and dryness, especially in those who don’t smoke.
As you can see, exposure to tobacco smoke, either as the smoker or passively, increases the risk for eye disorders. Smoking is a major preventable risk factor. Protect your eyes and those around you by never starting to smoke, quitting now if you do smoke, and staying quit for good.
Keep Going and Keep the Quit!