It’s well known that smoking can be associated with certain types of cancer and cardiovascular diseases. However, many people don’t realize smoking increases the risk of many eye conditions. If you’re a smoker, the good news is by quitting you can reduce your risk of many eye diseases. Read on to learn more:
Age-related macular degeneration
Studies show smokers can have anywhere between a 3 and 6 fold increase in the risk of developing AMD compared with people who have never smoked. This disease affects the center of the retina and can cause “blind spots” in central vision. It is the leading cause of permanent vision loss among senior Americans, but quitting smoking, even in later years, can significantly reduce your risk of this disease.
Cataracts cloud the lens of the eye causing hazy vision, especially at night, and can progress to total blindness. More than half of all Americans will have a cataract by age 80, and studies show people who smoke twenty cigarettes or more a day double their chances of forming cataracts. The more you smoke, the greater the likelihood.
Uveitis (inflammation of the eye’s middle section, or uvea) may not be as well-known as cataracts or macular degeneration, but for smokers, it’s important to realize smoking is associated. Smokers have a 2.2 times greater than normal risk of having this condition which is a serious eye disease that can result in blindness.
Risks to children
It is unfortunate that many children suffer eye diseases as a result of second-hand smoking. The risk of developing allergic conjunctivitis, or an inflamed conjunctiva, increases about 20% for children exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. And women who smoke while pregnant should be aware maternal smoking is associated with a 6.55 times increased risk of strabismus, or crossed eyes, which is a leading cause of blindness in children.
Clearly, quitting smoking is a good idea when it comes to eye health, but as anyone who’s tried to kick the habit can tell you, it’s not easy. The American Cancer Society has resources to help people who want to quit: