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Tobacco Use and Your Vision

The holiday season is upon us and it’s that time of year to think about setting a New Year’s Resolution. A recent study by the CDC reported that about 18% of Americans smoke cigarettes. If you’re one of those 42 million people, you may want to make that resolution to quit! In addition to the well known health risks that smoking causes, including lung cancer and heart disease, smoking can have a big effect on your vision.

Smoking affects every part of the human body and doubles the risk of developing diabetes, which in turn, can cause diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic Retinopathy causes damages to the blood vessels that supply the retina and can lead to permanent vision loss. This is just one complication and risk that smoking causes, in relation to other parts of the body.

If you are a smoker and suffer from dry eyes, smoking may be the culprit. Smoke is an eye irritant and can cause redness, itchiness, insufficient production of tears or even watery eyes. However, dry eyes are just the beginning of eye complication when it comes to smoking and how it affects vision. More than 50% of Americans will develop cataracts by the time they are 80 years old. Cataracts are a clouding of the eye’s natural lens and are the leading cause of blindness around the world. Smokers increase their risk of developing cataracts significantly; in fact, their chances of developing cataracts are double and those chances continue to increase the more that they smoke.

Smoking also increases the risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration. The Macula, which is part of the Retina, is responsible for sharp vision which is needed for driving and reading and Macular Degeneration causes blind spots, impaired vision and can lead to blindness. Smokers are three times as likely to develop Age-Related Macular Degeneration. Smoking is a big risk factor when it comes to Age-Related Macular Degeneration, but luckily it is a controllable variable. Quitting smoking at any age, even later in life, can reduce the risk!

Every day is a new day and the beginning of a new year reminds us that there is no better time than the present to take charge and improve our health and lifestyles. Make your New Year’s resolution to stay on top of your health, whether that means quitting smoking, being more active, or scheduling your next eye exam to keep your eyes healthy! You can take the first step by clicking here to schedule your next appointment.