We all know that smoking can lead to lung diseases such as COPD, emphysema, and cancer. But did you know that it can also lead to blindness? Here are a few facts about how this poor habit can increase your risk for developing age-related macular degeneration later on.
Smokers are 4 times more likely to develop macular degeneration: Eleven million people in the US are already diagnosed with some form of macular degeneration, a deterioration of the retina that provides your central vision. Smoking is one of easiest ways to join that number of people struggling with vision loss. Smoking cigarettes releases oxidants into the body that damage the retina by causing inflammation. Retinas that are grown in petri dishes can be killed by exposing them to cigarette extract.
Smoking speeds the deterioration of your macula: Cigarette smoke contains tons of chemicals that are circulated to your eye through the bloodstream. Some of these chemicals reduce the number of protective nutrients to your eye, resulting in your retina/macula “starving” and becoming damaged.
Smoking isn’t the only thing that increases your risk for AMD: Poor diet, not wearing UV protection on sunny days, and genetics can all have an impact on your risk for developing AMD. Studies have shown that having a nutrient deficient, high calorie diet can increase your risk, especially if you are a white female over the age of 60.
It can help to quit at any age: Regardless of your age or how long you have been smoking, it can always help to quit. It is true that the longer you smoke, the more damage those toxins can do to your eyes, but quitting is always a good decision.
It does not do you any good to lie about your smoking: It is estimated that anywhere from 1% - 79% of smokers under report their smoking to their physicians. Doctors need the full story to treat their patients, so the only people who patients hurt when they don’t report their smoking is themselves.
Smoking can lead to other eye diseases as well: By choosing to smoke, you increase your risk for diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, and even dry eye. If not treated, cataracts and glaucoma can lead to blindness, and advanced dry eye syndrome can make you miserable in your day-to-day life.
You might be hurting your loved ones too: Secondhand smoke can lead to an increased risk of macular degeneration as well. If you choose to smoke, make sure you do it outside and away from other people who do not want to increase their risk.
We know quitting smoking is difficult, but help is available! If you want more information on how to quit, speak to your primary care physician. They have a wealth of information regarding tips and techniques to make your journey to being smoke-free a little less difficult.