Could the reason to finally quit smoking be looking us in the eye?
Smoking can increase the risk of vision loss. With vision consistently rated as our most important sense, any serious conversation about quitting smoking should include the adverse impact of smoking on eye health.
Smoking is the biggest controllable factor associated with age-related macular degeneration – an irreversible eye disease that can lead to blindness.
Smoking accelerates the ageing process in the eye. Quitting smoking at any age – even later in life – can significantly reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration.
Studies show that smoking cigarettes also contributes to the formation of cataracts in the eye. First, free radicals present in tobacco smoke assault the eye directly, potentially damaging lens proteins and the fibre cell membrane in the lens. Second, smoking reduces the body's levels of antioxidants and certain enzymes which may help remove damaged protein from the lens. Over time, these effects can increase an individual's risk of developing cataracts.
Ocular irritation is the third major factor resulting from smoking – and this can impact not only the smoker but others as a result of second-hand passive smoke. Symptoms include stinging, burning or prickling eyes, watery eyes and redness.
Contact lens wearers are more likely to suffer contact lens problems as a result of smoking.
Optometry Australia applauds the “Smoking can cause blindness” message on cigarette packets and believes that optometrists have a vital role in educating their patients on the dangers of smoking and helping them to quit.
Studies have shown that even brief counselling by health-care professionals on the dangers of smoking and the benefits of quitting is one of the most effective methods of reducing smoking.
Call it quits and see your optometrist
People who have stopped smoking face less risk of eye disease than people who continue to smoke. Information about how to stop smoking and improve your eye health is available at www.quit.org.au.
With 75% of vision impairment preventable or treatable we encourage all Australians to see their optometrist for regular eye examinations.
Find an optometrist in your local area here.