You may not be aware of it, but being a smoker affects the health of your eyes. Not just by the fact that some smoke may get in your eyes and cause irritation, but by a strong link that has been made between smoking and loss of sight. Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute, wants you to be aware of some of the eye health risks in addition to the general health risks of smoking, such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.
Smoking causes a reduction in blood circulation throughout your body and can cause damage to your eyes. Here are some facts that are now known that affect those who smoke.
Higher risk for smokers
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a host of problems can occur that have a higher risk for smokers. These include:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Diabetic retinopathy
Your lens can become cloudy; things appear as if you were looking through a foggy windshield or a dusty window. Blurry vision can result. Eye-health changes as the result of cataracts include:
- Blurry vision
- Seeing double
- Sensitivity to light
- Bright colors seem faded
- Trouble seeing at night
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
This condition is a problem that occurs with the retina. Damage to the macula, a component of the retina, can cause you to lose central vision. You can no longer see fine details. An example is looking at the clock and seeing the numbers but not the hands. Peripheral vision is not affected, only the center. Very common, AMD can lead to loss of vision in people who are older than 50. Smoking increases the risk of AMD.
Risks for AMD besides smoking include a high saturated fat diet and being overweight as well as other factors. However, the more cigarettes you smoke, the greater your risk for developing AMD.
This affects the uvea, the middle layer of the eyeball, which gets inflamed and swollen. This layer of the eye contains numerous blood vessels that are needed for eye nourishment. Permanent vision loss can occur when uevitis damages the important and vital tissue of the eye. Three types of uevitis include:
Anterior can begin suddenly and can last for up to eight weeks; it may come and go and come back again.
Intermediate happens to the middle of the eye and can last for weeks, as it begins to get better then reappears again.
Posterior is inflammation near the back of the eye; symptoms can develop gradually and can last for years.
In some severe cases, all three layers of the eye may be affected by uevitis.
People with diabetes can have this disease of the eye. The blood vessels in the retina are damaged by high blood sugar levels, causing them to leak and swell. Another reaction is that these blood vessels can close, which stops the blood from passing through. Vision can be lost as these changes affect it.
PDR is the advanced stage of this disease. The retina starts growing new blood vessels. This is called neovascularization. Often bleeding into the vitreous, these are fragile new vessels that have grown. If they only bleed a little, you might see a few dark floaters. If they bleed a lot, it might block all vision. PDR can steal your side vision as well as central vision.
Moreover, scar tissue from the new blood vessels can cause a detached retina and problems with the macula. Risks for these problems increase with being a smoker.
Symptoms of diabetic retinopathy include:
- Increase in floaters
- Blurry vision
- Going from blurry to clear
- Blank or dark areas in your vision
- Poor night vision
- Colors appear washed out or faded
Other ways that smoking affects eye health
Dry Eyes - it is known that tobacco smoke irritates the eyes and is especially a problem among contact lens wearers. Second-hand smoke is also a culprit in this case. Eye itching and redness can be a result, and people feel as if something were in their eye. According to All About Vision, smokers are twice as likely to have dry eyes.
Infant Eye Disease is a higher risk when the mother is a smoker. Toxins are transferred to the placenta of the baby, doing harm to the unborn child. Other risks to the unborn child from the smoker mother include:
- Crossed eyes – strabismus
- Underdevelopment of the optic nerve
- Premature birth – with vision problems that include retinopathy with its potential for blindness
Here are some facts, from Vision Matters in the UK, that might help you to quit smoking, when it comes to your eyes:
- On average, smokers develop AMD 5 years earlier than those who do not smoke
- The risk of nuclear cataracts is 3 times greater in smokers
- Smokers are twice as likely to suffer from Uvelitis as non-smokers
- Smoking increases the chance of a contact lens wearer suffering corneal ulcers
- Smoking around family and loved one’s increases their risk of suffering from loss of eyesight
Quitting smoking and better eye health
There is some positive news for the health of your eyes, however. If you stop smoking, your risk of developing these diseases falls to levels that are similar to non-smokers and almost as low as those who have never started smoking.
Not only does quitting smoking help your general health and the possibility of fatal diseases, it offers a better future with less risk of developing eye disease. Quitting can be a choice at any age and will lessen the risk of sight-threatening conditions of the eye. Smokefree.gov can help in your journey to stop smoking and, in doing so, maintain the health of your eyes. See a brighter future when you quit smoking. Your friends and family will thank you as well.
To be sure that your eyes are healthy, schedule an exam at Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute, whether you have quit smoking or not. We are Tampa Bay’s leader in complete eye care. Our physicians are driven by excellence, yet our eye care is individual and personalized.
At Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute, we pride ourselves as having the latest advanced technology as well as the best-trained physicians and caring staff; they make our office a leader in the field of eye care and surgery. We treat our patients like family, giving you special attention. Our offices are throughout the Tampa Bay area to make it convenient for you to come in. Give us a call to schedule an eye exam and find out more about the health of your eyesight.
Not all this information is the same for everyone; this article should not replace in- person medical treatment. Learn more about the risks of smoking and eye health at Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute.