You probably know the risk that smoking poses to your heart, lungs and other organs — but have you considered how it can put your ocular health in jeopardy? Smoking significantly raises your risk of serious eye diseases that may lead to irreversible vision loss. Read on as Dr. Ernest Kornmehl of Kornmehl Laser Eye Associates shares what you need to know about smoking and eye health.
Increases the Risk of Cataracts and Macular Degeneration
Smoking has been identified as a risk factor for cataracts, which is a clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Studies indicate that smoking doubles the risk of getting cataracts, and the more you smoke, the higher your risk increases.
Smoking also puts you at a heightened risk of macular degeneration, which is a progressive deterioration of the macula, or the portion of the retina responsible for clear central vision. As the macula deteriorates, central vision and the ability to see fine details diminish. Studies suggest that if you smoke, you are two to four times more likely to get macular degeneration than non-smokers — and the risk increases the more you smoke.
Can Worsen Dry Eye Symptoms
Chronic dry eye syndrome can cause red, itchy eyes, the sensation of a foreign body in the eye, scratchy/ gritty feeling, pain, excessive tearing and fluctuating vision. Smoking makes you twice as likely to get dry eye syndrome; it can also worsen existing dry eye symptoms.
Linked to the Development and Progression of Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is a diabetic eye disease that damages the tiny blood vessels in the retina and can cause blurry or distorted vision. If you smoke and have diabetes, you are at a higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy and possibly losing vision.
Can Lead to Uveitis
Smoking can increase the risk of uveitis, which is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye wall called the uvea. Uveitis can cause red eyes, pain and visual impairment.
Can Cause Problems for Expecting Mothers
If you smoke while you are pregnant, you put your baby at risk of serious health problems like bacterial meningitis, which can cause eye infections and other vision problems. You are also more likely to give birth prematurely, which can put your baby at risk of related eye problems.
Invest In Your Long-Term Eye Health
Quitting smoking (or not starting in the first place) is one of the best things you can do for the long-term health of your eyes. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about potential resources. And, be sure to have annual eye exams to look for early signs of a problem.
If you would like to speak with Dr. Kornmehl about your eye health, please call or email our practice today.