Everyone knows that smoking is bad for you, but we often don’t think about how nicotine affects more than our lungs and its association with an increased risk of developing cancer. But the effects of smoking reach far beyond that. In fact, research shows that smoking can have a detrimental effect on virtually every organ system in our bodies. More than that, this includes devastating effects on our eyes and to our general vision health.
Studies have shown that smoking can —and often does— increase the risk of age-related vision problems such as cataracts, glaucoma, and macular degeneration, as well as a condition called diabetic retinopathy by as much as three times! Another condition that can be caused by smoking is called uveitis, which is a severe eye disease that can eventually result in full and permanent vision loss.
Not surprisingly, smoking also has been proven to be a significant cause in the development of diabetes, which also is a contributing risk factor in development of eye-related conditions such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. It only makes sense that taking care of our eyes and our vision starts with preventive care, which should include either quitting smoking, or never starting, in order to reduce your risk for vision problems in the future!
While it is true that genetics does play a major role in the development of these vision conditions, smoking, as well as other unhealthy habits (such as a poor diet) have been proven to increase risk and accelerate the development of vision-related conditions such as glaucoma and cataracts when they already have manifested. Speaking of genetics, it’s important to note that those with a family history of vision problems like cataracts and macular degeneration, and those with pre-existing vision problems of their own should avoid smoking.
It should go without saying that risk is tied to frequency, so the more someone smokes, the higher their risk becomes for developing vision problems and potential vision loss. On the flip side, those who smoke less have a lower increased risk, but, of course, the best course of action is to quit smoking, or never start to begin with. Even for those with a strong family history, quitting can be of great benefit to both vision and your overall health.
Quitting smoking will have an immediate and positive effect by lessening your risk for most tobacco and nicotine-related health issues and conditions. If you have an existing eye-related disease, quitting may actually slow down the progression of your condition as well.
If you want to quit smoking, this is the first step to better overall health! Quitting smoking is hard, so it’s best to make a plan, talk to your doctor about your intentions, and weigh your options for the various smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine replacement and therapy, to help you in your quest to quit smoking. Your eyes will thank you for it.
If you’re a smoker and wondering about your general vision health or your risk for developing glaucoma, please schedule a consultation with Washington Eye Physicians & Surgeons!
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