It is the time of year for making changes in your life, taking care of your health and ditching bad habits. One of the most common New Year resolutions is to give up smoking. We all know that smoking has devastating effects on your health, from increased risk of cancer and heart disease to aging of the skin and reduced sensitivity to taste and smell. Did you know that smoking also doubles the chance of losing your sight?
Studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of several eye diseases that lead to vision loss including Age Related macular Degeneration (AMD), Cataracts, Glaucoma and Diabetic Retinopathy. Also Dry Eye Syndrome is doubled compared to non smokers.
AMD is a loss on central vision which makes it difficult to read and see fine details, over time this increases and can lead to significant vision loss. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than non smokers.
Cataracts are a clouding of the naturally clear lens and which get worse as we get older. Cataracts are responsible for 50% of world blindness. Smokers are three times more likely to develop cataracts than non smokers and the risks persist even after quitting. The higher intensity of the smoker the longer the risks last, emphasing the importance of quitting earlier in life and avoidance altogether.
Glaucoma causes a gradual breakdown of the cells in the nerve of the eye that send visual information to the brain. As each cell dies the vision is then gradually lost usually starting with the side vision. It can go unnoticed for many years until cell damage is significant. Increased blood pressure, associated with smoking, can also increase the risks of developing glaucoma.
Diabetic Retinopathy causes tiny blood vessels in the retina to break down, leak or become blocked, which can lead to a gradual loss of vision over time. Serious eye damage can occur when new blood vessels grow over the surface of the retina. Smoking increases your chance of getting diabetes and therefore also diabetic retinopathy, and can also make managing diabetes more difficult.
Graves Ophthalmopathy is an autoimmune inflammatory disorder affecting the orbit around the eyes. It is characterised by eyelid retraction, swelling, redness and bulging of the eyes. It can cause intense pain, corneal ulceration and compression of the optic nerve. Incidence is 7 times higher in smokers.
Dry Eye Syndrome damages the blood vessels in the eye which can lead to irritation, itchy and scratchy eyes, and constant discomfort. Smokers are more than twice as likely to suffer from dry eyes than non smokers.
it is never too late to quit smoking, to benefit from a healthier lifestyle, healthier body and healthier eyes. You may even see the results!