Smoking and eye disease

Smoking and eye disease

Tobacco smoking is directly linked to many adverse health effects, including high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. Smoking is also linked to specific eye diseases.

How does smoking affect the eyes?

People who smoke cigarettes are at increased risk for developing cataracts, a clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye. Cataracts cause a variety of vision problems, including blurry distance vision, sensitivity to glare, loss of contrast and difficulty seeing colors. When eyeglasses or magnifiers are no longer helpful for someone with cataracts, or when cataracts develop in both eyes, surgery is the only option.

Tobacco smoking is also one of the preventable risk factors for age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies have shown that current smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked. AMD has two forms: dry (called atrophic or non-neovascular) AMD and wet (called exudative or neovascular) AMD. In dry AMD, your retina gradually thins. There is no proven cure for this type of degenerative disease. In wet AMD, new blood vessels grow in the retina, leak blood or fluid and damage the macula, the part of the retina responsible for your central vision. The types of treatment currently available for specific forms of wet AMD are standard laser surgery, photodynamic laser surgery, and medication injection, all of which may stabilize the disease.

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