We all know that smoking is detrimental to your health. However, a lot of people don’t know the devastating effects that cigarettes can have on your eyes: tobacco can permanently damage your eyes. It can impair eyesight, and in some cases, even lead to blindness.
Studies have demonstrated a clear correlation between smoking and the following eye diseases:
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): A part of the retina called “macula” gets modified by the disease and can, depending of the problem’s severity, lead to difficulties to see fine details, a decrease of the central vision and even the loss of seeing colour. Patients affected may feel the need to use more light to see or struggle to recognize faces.
- Cataracts: They are the consequence of an opacified crystalline. The crystalline is a lens located in the middle of our eye which allows to focus on images. That cataract creates like a curtain over your vision and slowly starts to fog it. They are very common among the elderly. Smokers have two to three more chances of developing cataracts, and earlier during their lifetime compared to non-smokers according to the National Eye Institute.
- Glaucoma: This occurs when the intraocular pressure is too high, the cells responsible for peripheral vision of the optic nerve start dying, resulting in a slow loss of vision. Usually, patients only notice vision impairment when the damages to the nerve are advanced.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Diabetes usually affects very vascularized organs of the body. The eyes contain a multitude of blood vessels, especially in the retina. An affected patient can have hemorrhage and macular edema that can lead to vision loss.
- Dry Eye Syndrome: Smoking increases the evaporation of the eyes’ natural moisture. The lack of tears can cause small lesions on the eye surface that can lead to much discomfort: itchiness, redness, watery eyes, blurry/veiled vision, and/or a sensation of a foreign object in the eye (like the sensation of grain of sand in the eye).
- Infant Eye Disease: Toxins from smoking are transmitted to an unborn baby via the placenta. Studies show that smoking during pregnancy comes with higher chances of “premature births and higher rates of strabismus (crossed eyes), refractive errors, retinal problems, and optic nerve problems” according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
Chemicals found in cigarettes have been found to potentially cause cellular damage impairing the healing process throughout the whole body. In case of eye injuries or ocular surgery, smokers have a tendency to need more time to heal and have a higher chance of complications.
If you are a smoker, here are steps you can take to protect your eyesight as much as possible:
- You’ve heard it plenty of times before, but it still is the best option, so we have to add it here. Stop smoking or reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke!
- Avoid wearing contact lenses. Smokers who wear contact lenses increase their risks of developing eye infections four times more than non-smokers.
- Do not miss eye exam appointments! During your ocular examination, your optometrist can find an underlying eye disease or visual impairment even before you become symptomatic. Then, they would be able to treat it or refer you to an ophthalmologist very early on, to monitor the condition and keep it under control. You should see your eye doctor at least once every two years. Often, the optometrist will decide to see a patient once a year, especially if a pathology is already identified (the diabetic mandatorily needs to be seen once a year).
- Focus on foods high in micronutrients, some important ones for your eyes are vitamin A, C and E, antioxidants as well as Beta Carotene and omega 3 fatty acids.
- Stay active, it will help control your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as risks of type 2 diabetes.
Are you a concerned smoker? Contact your IRIS store for more details.