It’s common knowledge that smoking is bad for your lungs, but smoking damages vision too.
It’s rare to find someone who isn’t aware of the health risks associated with regular tobacco use. In fact, smoking is the largest preventable cause of disease in the country. Besides the negative effects it has on your heart, lungs and almost every other organ, you should know that if you smoke, you’re gambling with your eyesight as well.
It Increases Your Risk of Cataracts
The first way smoking damages vision is by increasing your risk of cataracts.
A cataract is a gradual clouding of your eye lens. It’s the most common reason for blindness around the world. When you have a cataract, your vision gradually grows blurrier until you may not be able to see at all.
Doctors believe that when you smoke, the heavy metals in tobacco accumulate in the eye’s lens and change the cell structure through oxidation. Smoking doubles your chances of developing cataracts; heavy smokers triple their chances.
It Leads to Macular Degeneration
Macular degeneration is a breakdown of the macula, the central portion of the retina, which allows you to see details in your central vision — essential for reading or driving.
Macular degeneration is characterized by blurry or distorted vision. Unlike cataracts, which can be surgically repaired, macular degeneration has no cure. Some treatments can stop progression of the disease, but ongoing vision damage can lead to blindness.
Similar to the risk of developing cataracts, the chances you will develop macular degeneration increase with frequency of tobacco use. Compared to people who have never smoked, tobacco users are two to four times more likely to experience this condition.
Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy and Dry Eyes
Smoking doesn’t directly lead to glaucoma, but it does raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of diabetes — two of the risk factors for developing glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy is a side effect of diabetes that can damage your vision.
Smokers are more than twice as likely to experience dry eye syndrome as well, which can improve within a few days of quitting.
Vision Loss Completely Changes Your Life
All in all, if you smoke, you are four times more likely to go blind in your lifetime. It’s clear smoking damages vision, as well as many other systems in your body. But blindness is a condition that cannot be reversed and will alter the course of your life. You can significantly decrease your risk of blindness, and it starts with quitting tobacco.
You Only Get One Set of Eyes
Are you ready to quit smoking? Visit smokefree.gov or talk to your doctor to design a smoking cessation plan personalized for you. You can also talk to the team at Salt Lake Eye Associates to learn more about how smoking damages vision, and what you can do to stop the damage and reverse the adverse effects.