Many people do not realize just how consequential and extensive the health effects of smoking are. Unfortunately, many smokers will use a bit of information, like a doctor saying ‘your lung screen is normal’ to justify continuing to smoke. However, compounds from the combustion process of smoking impact every system/organ of the body including the vascular system, the endocrine system, even the eyes!! That’s right – your EYES
In conditions such as AMD (or age-related macular degeneration), the part of the retina known as the macula becomes damaged. This impairs central vision. The blood flow to the macular part of the retina (which enables us to see very fine detail) comprised of the tiniest vessels in the body, can be directly impacted by smoking. According to the British Medical Journal, those who smoke are at an increased risk developing age-related macular degeneration, and smokers in general increase their chances of going blind in old age by as much as 4 times. While smoking can directly impact one’s eye health and vision, quitting smoking decreases your risk of developing AMD by 6.7 percent after 1 year, and by 11.7 percent after 5 years.
Similarly, while you probably already know that diabetes can be complicated by smoking, there is also a condition known as diabetic retinopathy which can again affect those tiny blood vessels of the eye. Here, those fine vessels can break down, leak or even become blocked – which can lead to blurred vision, or worse yet - blindness.
Smoking also increases the risk of damage to the optic nerve – the nerve that makes communication from the eye to the brain possible. The possible consequences here are so central to your vision that damage to the optic nerve can lead to glaucoma, or again, blindness.
Although many do not consider it, the detrimental effects of smoking on the eyes is very real, and quitting smoking is indeed one of the most important things you can do to protect your vision for a lifetime.