An opticians in Burnley is encouraging locals who kicked their smoking habit with the NHS Stoptober campaign to continue their efforts into November and beyond, by revealing some little known facts about smoking and eye health.

Long term eye health

David Cleasby, store director at Specsavers in Charter Walk Shopping Centre, says: ‘Stopping smoking is one of the best investments a person can make in their long term eye health. While we all know about the benefits of quitting like saving money, having healthier lungs and enjoying food more as taste bud function improves, it’s not as widely known that smoking can have a detrimental effect on the eyes.’

Smoking, even in your teens or twenties, increases future risk of cataract and age-related macular degeneration. The more a person smokes, the higher the risks.

Smoking also raises the risks of coronary heart diseases that indirectly affect the health of the eyes. As a result of smoking the body not only absorbs toxins, but loses nutrients. Smoking interferes with the absorption of vital vitamins and minerals which can affect the health of the whole body as well as the eyes.

Long term tobacco use may lower levels of vitamin A in the bloodstream. Vitamin A is an antioxidant that may prevent cellular damage and cancer formation caused by the oxidisation of free radicals. It is also necessary for preventing vision problems as well as helping to prevent skin problems.

Benefits of quitting smoking entirely

Tobacco chemicals damage the blood vessels behind the eyes causing age-related macular degeneration. Another condition caused by smoking, although very rare, is tobacco amblyopia, or a loss of vision in both eyes. For many years experts thought that this rare condition could only occur when alcoholism and malnutrition or a disorder of vitamin B12 metabolism also existed, but recent reports have suggested it can also occur independently of these other conditions. Stopping smoking can result in a total cure.

Smoking may also worsen diabetic retinopathy, an eye complication associated with diabetes. This disease, which can lead to blindness, damages the retinal blood vessels by causing repeated high blood sugar levels and may leak fluid or blood and form scar tissue. It is possible that this is caused by a reduction of oxygen in the blood along with increased carbon monoxide levels from smoking.

People with thyroid disease are also at a much higher risk of developing thyroid eye disease (TED) if they smoke tobacco. Graves ophthalmopathy, also caused by TED, can cause swelling of the tissues around the eyeball resulting in the eyes bulging out, and can affect eye movements and cause double vision.

Importance on eye examinations

Mr Cleasby continues, ‘We recommended that everyone has an eye examination every two years. An eye examination will not only detect problems with your vision, but it can also uncover a number of underlying health problems.

‘If you are one of the many who took part in Stoptober, good luck as you continue into November.’

The NHS’s anti-smoking campaign, Stoptober, encouraged smokers to stop for the month of October. The campaign was based on studies that show that stopping smoking for four weeks can increase the chance of quitting permanently.

All Burnley store information.