While nearly everyone knows that smoking can lead to severe, often life-threatening health problems like lung cancer and heart disease, many are not aware that smoking can also lead to vision loss and other eye related problems. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that smoking can affect virtually every system and organ of the body, so it makes sense that the eyes would not be any different.
How Smoking Affects the Eyes
Studies have shown that smoking can lead to or accelerate age-related eye problems like macular degeneration, glaucoma, cataracts, and diabetic related retinopathy. Smoking can also cause less severe, but annoying, issues like dry eye and increase the look of wrinkles around the eyes.
According to NY Department of Health, smoking increases the risk of macular degeneration by three or more times, and it increases the risk of cataracts by three times. Smoking can also contribute to the development of diabetes, which has been known to cause vision issues through diabetic retinopathy. While genetics and other unhealthy habits will play some role in the development of these conditions, smoking can increase the risk or accelerate vision problems which have already manifested. Those with pre-existing vision problems or a strong family history of vision problems should especially avoid smoking.
All About Vision also reports that smoking can lead to Uveitis, a severe disease of the eyes which can eventually lead to permanent full vision loss.
The more someone smokes, the greater the risk for these issues. Quitting can greatly reduce these risks, even for those with a strong family history.
How to Prevent Smoking Related Vision Problems
The most effective ways to prevent smoking-related vision problems is to quit smoking. This will immediately result in a lessened risk for most tobacco-related health issues. Those who have existing eye related diseases may slow down the progression of their diseases as well.
Those who want to quit smoking should make a plan, discuss the plan with their doctors, and consider smoking cessation aids to help along the way. Nicotine replacement therapies and other aids may be used to help patients who wish to quit.
Additional methods for preventing vision loss and eye related disease may also offset the risk. Eating a healthy diet and exercising can help keep the eyes (and the rest of the body) healthy. This is especially important for those who are at risk for type 2 diabetes, or those who are already diabetic. A healthy diet helps to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. It will also help prevent high blood pressure, which has been linked to many vision problems (smoking is a leading cause of high blood pressure and poor blood circulation, both of which are damaging to the eyes).
It’s also important to visit one’s eye doctor regularly. This will help patients detect and potentially treat vision problems before they become severe. In some cases, early treatment and succession of smoking can halt or slow the progression of a disease.