Smoking is bad for you. Everyone knows this. In fact, according to the CDC tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of death and disease. It damages nearly every organ in the body, reduces the health of its users, and shortens their lives. Most people are familiar with the major – sometimes fatal – diseases caused by smoking such as heart disease and cancer, but many may not be aware that smoking can also cause irreversible damage to your vision. While non-smokers can also develop vision problems as they age, smokers are at a much higher risk for these problems.
One vision problem associated with aging is cataracts, which is very normal in older people. Cataracts, a clouding of the clear lens, can cause “blurry vision, faded colors, and a sensitivity to glare.” The picture on the left, from WebMD shows what a cataract looks like. If you are a smoker, you have double the risk of developing cataracts, triple that risk for heavy smokers compared to non-smokers, according to a Harvard Medical School study. The picture to the right is an example of vision with cataracts. (From Vista Eye Care)
Smoking can double your risk of having diabetes which in turn can create other health problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control, “you are more likely to have serious health problems from diabetes” including heart and kidney disease, poor blood flow to legs and feet, nerve damage to arms and legs that cause numbness, pain, weakness and poor coordination. You are also more likely to have diabetes retinopathy, a condition that affects the tiny blood vessels of the retina in the eye and can cause blindness. The photo on the left, from Lighthouse International, shows what your vision with diabetic retinopathy may look like. Wikipedia states it “affects up to 80% of all patients who have had diabetes for 10 years or more,” and “90% of these new cases could be reduced if there was proper and vigilant treatment and monitoring of the eyes.” Blurred vision, such as the picture on the right from WebMD could indicate there is also a serious eye problem such as diabetes. If you have diabetes you should contact your eye doctor for careful monitoring of your vision.
“Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the number one cause of vision loss in people over 65 in the U.S.” and is another eye condition smoking increases your risk of developing by two to four times over a non-smoker. Even non-smokers exposed to environmental tobacco smoke have a greater risk of developing this condition than non-smokers. The center part of the retina is called the macula and allows a person to see fine details, but over time it can wear out and cause “blurriness, distortions or blind spots in their central vision.” The picture above at the left from the Retina Institute of the Carolinas & the Macular Degeneration Center shows how this condition can affect your vision.
Glaucoma, dry eye syndrome, and uveitis are also conditions that affect the eyes, and all conditions can be made worse by smoking. If you are experiencing any of these vision problems, contact your eye doctor. It may not be easy to quit smoking, but if the alternative is to have decreased eyesight or keep smoking, the answer should be plain to see.
You can read more about Smoking and Eye Disease here.