Smoking can lead to vision loss. Here are health tips to protect the eyes

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Jun 01, 2022 08:08 AM IST

While many of us are aware that smoking can lead to severe conditions like respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, it can also be equally harmful to the eyes. Other than quitting smoking, here are some important things one can do to protect the eyes

Smoking is the leading preventable reason behind mortality in the world as tobacco consumption results in more than 8 million deaths worldwide and it is being estimated that nearly 600,000 of them are passive smokers. While many of us are aware that smoking can lead to severe conditions like respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases and cancer, it can also be equally harmful to the eyes.

Smoking can lead to vision loss. Here are health tips to protect the eyes (Eren Li)
Smoking can lead to vision loss. Here are health tips to protect the eyes (Eren Li)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Ashutosh Patil, Director and Chief Consultant at Pune's EMERALD Eye Hospital & Retina Centre, Pune revealed, “Cigarette smoke releases toxins in the body that travels through the bloodstream affecting different organs including the eyes. Smoking significantly increases the risk of developing severe eye conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy which can ultimately lead to vision loss if proper precautions are not taken on time. Additionally, cigarette smoke can cause puffiness below the eyes and eyelid disorders, such as inflammation and irritation.”

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Types of eye disorders caused by smoking

People who smoke often don’t understand that the smoke from cigarettes can damage crucial parts of the eyes like the lens, retina and macula, all of which are important for maintaining a healthy vision. Dr Ashutosh Patil listed some of the major eye disorders caused by smoking:

1. Cataracts - Cataracts can significantly increase the chances of vision loss. The condition occurs when the naturally transparent lens of the eyes becomes cloudy, resulting in light sensitivity and blurred vision. Smoking can increase the percentage of free radicals within the eyes. Free radicals can damage the proteins and lipids in the eyes and result in the formation of deposits on the eye’s lens—causing cataract development.

2. Age-related Macular Degeneration - The central vision is impaired by this condition, which makes it impossible or difficult to drive, read and even recognize colours and faces. When left untreated, the disease can progress to blindness and permanent vision loss. Research has also revealed that smokers tend to have low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin which protect the macula from UV radiation— another big risk factor for age-related macular degeneration.

3. Diabetic Retinopathy - Smoking can increase the chances of developing diabetes by up to 40% and eventually increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels within the retina. Due to that, the blood vessels leak fluid and blood into the eyes causing total or partial blindness.

4. Dry Eyes - This condition occurs when adequate tears are not produced by the eyes. Cigarette smoke can further cause irritation and eye dryness.

People who are more at risk of developing eye conditions from smoking

According to Dr Ashutosh Patil, there are some groups who are especially at risk of developing eye condition from smoking which includes:

1. Pregnant women - Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of retinopathy in unborn babies. This disorder happens when the blood vessels in the baby’s retina are not fully developed which could cause retinal detachment and, in certain cases, even blindness.

2. Diabetics - Diabetic people who smoke are more at risk of developing conditions like diabetic retinopathy.

3. Children - A study has revealed that children can develop eye conditions caused by smoke at a very early age. Smoke from cigarettes can lead to thinning of the choroid which can put their eye health at risk.

Tips to protect the eyes:

Quitting smoking is obviously one of the best ways to ensure good eye health. However, other than quitting smoking, Dr Ashutosh Patil suggested some important things one can do to protect the eyes like:

● Wearing eyeglasses or sunglasses when heading out to protect the eyes from the harmful UV rays of the sun

●Frequently blink the eyes to prevent it from drying out or becoming irritated

● Maintain good eye hygiene

●Always keep blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control

● Rest the eyes, especially while doing eye-straining activities like using screens, reading, etc.

● Go for routine check-ups from an ophthalmologist

It’s never too late to give up on smoking. It is always important to remember that quitting smoking can not only help in maintaining overall health but is also good for eye health.

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