It’s common knowledge that smoking cigarettes significantly reduces your health, harms almost every organ in your body, causes a variety of diseases and takes years off of your life.
With 7.2 million adults in England that smoke and a staggering 14.6 million ex-smokers, this deadly habit is most commonly known to lead to heart disease, high cholesterol and lung cancer. But did you know it can also lead to a loss of vision too?
When somebody takes a puff from a cigarette, you may think the only part of the eye affected is the part that is exposed, which is the cornea. This isn’t the case. The eye is made up of tissue and fluid and is constantly absorbing nutrients and oxygen from your tears, which keeps it healthy as a result. If the air is polluted, from something like smoke for example, your eye is exposed to more pollutants.
Here are some of the ways smoking cigarettes can damage your vision:
Age Macular Degeneration
Age related macular degeneration (AMD) is an eye condition that affects the central part of your retina, also known as the macula. This area is what allows you to maintain sharp, central vision, meaning that AMD can make daily tasks such as driving, watching the television and reading particularly difficult.
According to All About Vision, smokers risk of developing AMD compared to those that have never smoked is three times higher. If you are a woman over the age of 80 your chances are even worse, as you’re 5.5 times more likely to develop AMD than people that don’t smoke at that age.
But the good news is that your increased risk can be reversed if you give up smoking cigarettes, as no matter what age you are.
Cataracts is one of the leading causes of blindness in the world and is when your eye’s natural lens becomes cloudy and misty. Whilst our vision does deteriorate with age, smokers have double the chance of forming this condition.
Whilst cataracts can be fixed with surgery, it’s not worth putting yourself through if you can prevent it, as your chances of developing it will only increase with each puff of smoke.
Whilst dry eyes can emerge at any age and develop from a number of causes, from windy climates, hormonal changes or simply in reaction to your contact lenses, smoking worsens this condition significantly.
Tobacco smoke is known for getting into people’s eyes and causing irritation, but this can sometimes lead to dry eye, especially for those that wear contact lenses. Again, smokers are twice as likely to have dry eyes.
The uvea or uveal tract is the middle layer of your eye, and when inflamed, that is called uveitis. This condition can not only cause eye pain, redness, blurry vision and sensitivity to light, but it can cause complete vision loss if left untreated, and also can lead to further eye problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
Whilst many cases of uveitis are linked to problems with the immune system, which for unknown reasons can become overactive in the eye, it can also emerge from an infection, eye injury and smoking. In fact, a study in the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reveals that if you smoke, you are 2.2 times more likely than a non-smoker to develop uveitis.
Pregnant women smoking cigarettes can harm their child’s vision
Smoking cigarettes whilst pregnant is known to heighten your chances of miscarriage, increase your baby’s heart rate and lower the oxygen available to your baby as it grows. It can also damage their vision.
The dangerous toxins transmitted to the placenta can cause eye disorders such as strabismus (crossed eyes), as well as the optic nerve not fully developing, which is one of the leading causes of blindness in children.
The risks simply aren’t worth it. Here’s what you could do today to get your vision back on track:
- Quit smoking - start making small changes in your lifestyle to help quit this habit. From making a list of reasons why you want to quit (this blog post should help), to making non-smoking friends or consulting your doctor for further advice
- Keep active - regular exercise can reduce your risk of eye conditions such as cataracts, AMD and glaucoma
- Eat healthy foods - Not only are there particular foods that are good for your vision, for example spinach, oily fish and eggs, but having a healthy diet will help you avoid health problems such as type 2 diabetes, which can damage your vision
- Book an appointment with your eye doctor - keep your eyesight in check by having a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years
Ready to save your sight, money and health?
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