How Does Smoking Affect Your Eye Health?
“Smokers are much more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and cataracts compared to non-smokers.”
Smokers, be warned.
New research has revealed that smokers are two to three times more likely to develop age related macular degeneration (AMD) than non-smokers.
Age related macular degeneration is the UK’s leading cause of blindness, and affects around half a million people across the country. AMD is a painless eye condition. Symptoms include difficulty reading or recognising faces. AMD gradually leads to partial or complete sight loss.
What Does Smoking Have To Do With It?
“Cigarette smoke contains 4,700 chemicals, many of which are free radicals. Repeatedly exposing delicate retinal cells to these oxidants is effectively fast-forwarding the ageing process.”
Lighting up several times a day is vastly increasing your chances of losing your sight to AMD. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, so less oxygen reaches the macula. Research has also shown that the tar in cigarettes triggers the formation of deposits in the retina, which can be the catalyst for the onset of macular degeneration.
Cigarettes contain extremely harmful chemicals such as nicotine, tar, arsenic and ammonia, which enter your bloodstream and travel throughout your body. Some of these substances can cause blood vessels at the back of the eye to burst, damaging the macula and ultimately leading to loss of vision.
Research also suggests that smokers have lower levels of the macular pigments lutein and zeaxanthin. These are antioxidant substances in the macula, which are thought to protect it from the damaging effects of sunlight. They are obtained from green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach. People with low levels of macular pigment are more likely to develop AMD.
There is also some considerable evidence that smokers do not respond as well to the treatment of AMD as non-smokers. This reduces your chances of reversing the effects, or slowing the decline of your eyesight.
Prevention is always better than a cure. Anyone can be affected by age related macular degeneration, and some are genetically predisposed to the condition. But by smoking, you are increasing your chances of losing your sight to AMD, and reducing the effectiveness of any possible treatment. Do you need help to quit smoking? Contact your GP today, or follow these helpful tips on how to get started.
If you are a smoker, or live with someone who smokes, and have noticed any deterioration in your eyesight, we would recommend coming in for an eye health test. We have branches in Cardigan, Narberth and Pembroke Dock, and would be happy to fit you in!