You are probably aware of the many risks that come with smoking tobacco, such as heart disease and lung cancer. In fact, smoking negatively affects nearly every organ in the body, including the eyes. While few people associate smoking with eye diseases, it actually significantly increases their risk. Dr. Walter Choate ensures his patients are educated on smoking and the risk of eye diseases at our Nashville, TN optometry office.
Smoking is associated with several different eye diseases and conditions. Several of these diseases are incurable. By smoking cigarettes, you significantly increase your risk of vision loss as a result of developing one of these eye diseases.
Cataracts can develop in one or both eyes. They cloud your eye’s natural lens, making it difficult to see. Heavy smokers have three times greater risk of developing cataracts compared with non-smokers. Average smokers have double the risk. Fortunately, cataract surgery is available. This procedure removes the natural lens and replaces it with an artificial lens.
Glaucoma is an incurable eye disease and is a leading cause of blindness. Smoking increases your risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. Both of these conditions are also risk factors for glaucoma. When detected early, we can usually treat glaucoma with various medications to prevent total vision loss.
Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors for developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD). It is another incurable eye disease that begins with blind spots in the central vision before leading to total vision loss. Smoking hinders the blood supply to the eyes, which gradually results in vision loss. Smokers are nearly four times more likely to develop AMD. Non-smokers subjected to frequent second-hand smoke have twice the risk of developing AMD.
Smoking also increases your risk for many other eye conditions. If you have diabetes, it increases your risk of diabetic retinopathy, which can result in vision loss. Smoking also increases symptoms of dry eye, and can make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable. Second-hand smoke can also cause dry eye symptoms in non-smokers.
The best way to reduce your risk of eye diseases is not to smoke in the first place and to avoid second-hand smoke. Although smoking significantly increases your risk of eye diseases, you can lower your risk dramatically simply by quitting. When you quit, your risk for developing an eye disease almost lowers to the risk level of people who have never smoked.
If you do smoke and are not yet ready to quit, you should be diligent about attending your annual eye exam. During this exam, Dr. Choate can check for warning signs of eye diseases. Early diagnosis and treatment is the second-best chance you have at preventing total vision loss (the first being quitting smoking, of course).
To assess your eye health and evaluate your risk of eye diseases, contact our office today and schedule an exam.