Did you know smoking causes eye diseases?
Most people know that smokers are at increased risk of developing lung cancer, heart disease and strokes but they don’t know that it can also adversely affect your vision. Doctors have studied the rates of eye diseases amongst people who smoke and compared them to non-smokers. The evidence is clear – smoking increases the risk of developing vision problems. If you live with a non-smoker, they can also be at increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration through ‘passive’ smoking.
Cataracts. This is a clouding of the eye's naturally clear lens. Cataracts are very common in older people as they usually develop as we age. Heavy smokers - people who smoke 15 cigarettes or more every day - have up to three times the risk of developing cataracts as non-smokers.
Glaucoma causes a gradual break down of the optic nerve cells in your eye that sends visual information to your brain. As the nerve cells die, vision is slowly lost, usually beginning with peripheral vision. Often the loss of vision is not noticeable until a large amount of nerve damage has occurred. This is the reason why as many as half of all people with glaucoma may be unaware that they have it. Smokers are twice as likely to develop glaucoma as non-smokers.
Age related macular degeneration or AMD begins as a loss of central vision which makes it difficult to read and see fine details. Over time, vision loss increases significantly. There are two types of AMD, “wet” and “dry”. Wet AMD is caused by damage to the tiny blood vessels under the retina, or light sensitive layer in the eye and it can damage vision quite quickly. Dry AMD is more common and is caused by fatty deposits under the retina. Vision loss is slower with dry AMD. Smokers are up to four times as likely to develop AMD.
Diabetic retinopathy is a complication that affects diabetics. The tiny blood vessels of the retina can break down, leak or become blocked, which affects vision over time. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, serious damage to the eye can occur when new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina.
Dry eye syndrome. Smokers are twice as likely as non smokers to develop dry eyes. Dry Eye syndrome is caused by damaged blood vessels and can lead to eye irritation, itchy and scratchy eyes, and burning sensation of the eyes.
If you are a smoker, there are steps you can take to reduce these risks and you are strongly advised to see an optician on a regular basis so that your eyesight can be screened, and early detection of any developing condition identified. The best way to protect your future sight is to give up smoking. There’s support available through the NHS to help you quit for good, and the New Year is a good time to make this commitment.
Other changes you can make to protect your eyes include:
- Eating lots of healthy foods, especially green leafy vegetables and fruit. Opticians recommend eating more foods high in vitamins C, E, and beta carotene.
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol. This could mean making changes to your diet by eating less saturated fat and salt or seeing your GP or practice nurse if you could benefit from medication.
- Staying active. Regular exercise, whether this is simply walking more or joining a exercise class will also mean your eyesight is protected as you age.
If you have any questions about smoking and eye health or you’d like to make an appointment for an eye health check-up, please contact the friendly reception team at Monnow Eyecare. Call in at the practice on 11 Cinderhill Street, call us on 01600 715 299 or book online here.
For more information about rick factors for AMD, click on the video below