Most people are aware of the health risks that smoking tobacco products can bring, such as increased risks of lung cancer, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure. What many do not realize is that some of these increased risks are also directly related to our vision and can cause vision problems and even blindness as we age.
What Eye Conditions Have Increased Risks from Smoking?
You are at risk of several different types of eye conditions when you smoke. It is important to understand that many of these conditions can occur whether you smoke or not. However, by smoking and continuing to use tobacco products, you increase the likelihood they will develop at some point during your life.
1. AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration)
AMD occurs when there is a deterioration of the macula, which is in the center of the retina. As the macula deteriorates, your vision starts to become blurred. AMD makes it harder to complete simple everyday tasks without vision correction, including eye surgery. In about one-quarter of AMD diagnoses, the cause was from smoking.
Cataracts are another age-related vision problem that develops as we get older. While cataracts are normally typical in senior citizens, younger people can also develop cataracts. Cataracts cannot be prevented. Yet, there are things we can do to lower our risks and delay cataracts from developing—like quitting smoking. Smokers increase the risks of developing cataracts by two times.
3. Dry Eye/Red Eye
Tobacco smoke is an eye irritant that can dry out the eyes and cause them to become red. Dry eye can lead to vision problems later, as well as create concerns when you want to get laser eye surgery. For instance, you would not be an ideal candidate for LASIK with dry eye from smoking. Yet, there are other dry eye surgery options to correct vision problems if you are willing to stop smoking.
4. Retinopathy (Diabetic Eye Disease)
Smokers double their risks of developing diabetes. When you have diabetes, it can lead to retinopathy, which is where blood vessels in the retina tissue of the eye are damaged. As the blood vessels are damaged, it leads to an increase in vision loss.
Uveitis is where there is inflammation in the eye tissue in the middle layer of the uvea. The symptoms include eye pain, blurred vision, and eye redness. The onset of symptoms can occur suddenly without any advanced warning. Once they do appear, they tend to worsen fairly fast. People who smoke have two to three times of an increased risk of developing uveitis.
Blindness is where you lose your ability to see clearly. Some people experience partial blindness as they get older, where their vision is limited. Other people experience complete blindness, where they lose all of their vision and can no longer see anything. The risks for blindness are four times higher in smokers.
Depending on your age, quitting smoking now can still result in the body healing some or most of the damage caused by smoking, as well as reduce your risks of health problems and vision problems.
To find out if you have vision problems related to smoking or other medical conditions, please feel free to contact ADV Vision Centers to schedule an appointment with our ophthalmic surgeon by calling (805) 987-5300 today!
We have three locations in San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, and Paso Robles, California, and we offer a range of laser eye surgery and ophthalmologist services. We can also provide advice and assistance to help you stop smoking.