Most of us know that smoking causes serious health problems - like cancer and heart disease - but did you know that cigarettes can also seriously damage your eyesight?
Research shows that being a smoker doubles your chances of sight loss through conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts and vascular disease. On top of that, smokers are much more likely to progress to more severe forms of these conditions.
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in adults over 65 and smoking is the single greatest avoidable risk factor. Macular degeneration is caused by a breakdown of the delicate cells in the macula at the back of your eye. When the macula becomes damaged, it affects your central vision, making it difficult to see fine detail, such as when reading small print or recognising people’s faces.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens inside your eye which causes blurred, misty vision. While cataracts are part of normal ageing in your eyes, smoking greatly increases your chances of developing them. The longer you have been a smoker, and the heavier you smoke, the greater the risk. Furthermore, smokers are three times more likely to develop the denser, more disabling forms of cataract.
Smokers are especially prone to developing hardened arteries and blocked blood vessels throughout the body. When blood vessels supplying one of your eyes are affected, the result can be a sudden and permanent loss of part or all of the vision in that eye. If you have pre-existing vascular conditions like diabetes and blood pressure, you are at particular risk.
The good news is that the risk of smoking-related eye problems reduces as soon as you stop smoking. Also, the risks decline steadily the longer you remain a non-smoker. If you would like to stop smoking, help and advice is available through your GP or pharmacist. So, why not take the plunge to quit - as well as enjoying better health, you’ll help preserve your eyesight.