Aren’t there enough reasons not to smoke? Lung and throat cancer are the best known harmful effects, along with aging of the skin. But did you know that smoking actually increases our risk for blindness, too?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can lead to blindness and is one of the leading causes of vision loss in North America. The risk of AMD increases with age, and the number of people affected by it is expected to double by the year 2020 due to the aging population. Many studies have shown that smoking can increase the risk of developing AMD by two to three times!
Other eye problems associated with smoking exist as well. Dryness, redness and irritation from smoke can alter the cornea’s clear surface, making it more vulnerable to infection and potentially leading to vision loss. A cataract (clouding of the lens of the eye) may also be accelerated from smoke exposure, which in some studies is thought to be responsible for as many as 1 in 5 cataracts. Pregnant women who smoke, in addition to inducing greater learning problems and lower birth weight, expose their unborn babies to a 25% greater risk of developing an “eye turn” or lazy eye.
Non smokers who are exposed to second hand smoke on a regular basis face similar risks as smokers when it comes to these harmful effects.
It’s never too late to quit – the research shows that quitting now greatly reduces the chances of vision loss as well as cancer. Let’s talk to our friends and family about the risks to eye health and vision from smoking. This information might just encourage the smokers among us to quit, and discourage would-be smokers (especially our teens and young adults) from starting.
– Dr. Wilk