With Stoptober in full swing, we wanted to look at the less known effects that smoking can have on the health of your eyes. In fact, stopping smoking is one of the best investments you can make in your long term eye health.

The benefits of quitting

While there are many benefits of quitting, such as 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 your future risks for 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 problems with vision and the skin.

Chemical damage

Tobacco chemicals damage the blood vessels behind your 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 conditions, and stopping smoking can result in a total cure.

Smoking may also worsen diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to damage to 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. It's recommended that you have an eye examination every two years.

The importance of regular eye examinations

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 taking part in Stoptober, good luck!

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