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!