When it comes to good eye care, lifestyle and behavior matters. It turns out smoking is a prime risk factor for several causes of declining vision. Smoking isn’t just detrimental to your health and your good looks. It’s really bad for your eyes—a fact that too many people never realize until it’s too late and they suffer from preventable vision loss.
Smoking and your eyes—the facts
If you are a smoker, then somewhere between the tobacco smoke and chemicals you’re putting your peepers in jeopardy for a number of conditions and eye diseases. The carcinogenic chemicals affect tear production and damage blood vessels in eyes. And while toxins from cigarettes are just bad news for health in general, they can quadruple your risk of vision loss.
A shortlist of what smoking does to your eyes
Cataracts generally develop with age, and more than 50% of Americans have had experience with cataracts or cataract surgery by the time they turn 80. The condition leads to decreased night vision, blurred vision, double vision, light sensitivity and a clouded lens. Smoking has been linked to cataracts, so if cloudy vision isn’t your cup of tea stop smoking now to help minimize your risk.
- Macular degeneration
A damaged macula (part of your retina) can affect your ability to see fine detail. This central vision loss can make it a challenge to read or do anything that requires close-up vision. Before you write this one off and tell yourself macular degeneration is going to happen anyway, you should know that smoking brings it on much faster—up to 5 years faster, in fact.
Smoking damages your optic nerve, which is responsible for sending information about what you see over to your brain. When those cells die, the incoming information to the brain fades and vision loss occurs. A National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that the more cigarettes you have per day, the more your chance of developing glaucoma increases.
- Dry eye syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is marked by stinging, burning, itchy eyes, a gritty feeling, redness and irritation. The discomfort of this sometimes chronic condition is a result of poor tear production and damaged blood vessels—both of which can be brought on by the chemicals in cigarettes.
Start your better vision by stopping smoking
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, quitting smoking reduces your risks significantly, almost as if you’ve never smoked. Ready to take control of your vision and health? There’s no better time to quit smoking than right now. Cancer.org provides some great resources for getting on the path to a smoke-free and tobacco-free life. Their secret sauce to success? Creating a plan. Sure, you can go cold turkey, but unless you have a plan to see you through the tough moments, it’ll be all too easy to go back. Check out the plan here.
If you’re ready to quit smoking, congratulations! Give your eyesight a boost by scheduling a visit with your ophthalmologist (eye doctor). Then delve into our blog to get more great nutrition, lifestyle and vision tips for your best eye care.