Smoking and vision – yes it’s linked! Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the UK and a lot of the world. Everyone knows that smoking is very harmful for you and others around you. Each year in the UK 100,000 people die from smoking related diseases.

People have known for a long time that it can seriously affect your heart and lungs, putting you at risk of developing cancer. What a lot of people don’t know is that smoking is very harmful for your eye health and vision. Recent studies have shown that smokers are at a higher risk of developing age-related conditions such as:

  • Macular degeneration (AMD) – this can cause ‘blind spots’ to form in your eye and effect everyday activities such as reading and driving. Smokers are three times more likely to develop AMD; female smokers over the age of 80 are five times more likely to develop it
  • Cataracts – it is thought that cataract surgery is the most common surgery in the UK. Studies show that smokers double their chance of developing this disease, and the risk higher for those that smoke a large number of cigarettes for a long time (15 or more a day is considers a large amount)
  • Glaucoma – there is a strong link between smoking and high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes. If you have one of these diseases, you are at a high risk of going on to develop glaucoma
  • Dry eye syndrome – this occurs when the surface of the eye becomes too dry and therefore causes irritation. Cigarette smoke is known to irritate and dry out the eye; even if it is just second hand smoke!
  • Diabetic retinopathy – this disease affects the blood vessels in the retina and can lead to loss of vision. If you smoke you may be as much as double the risk of developing diabetes

Scientists believe that smokers are at a higher risk of developing these conditions because metal, that is found in cigarettes, may build up in the eye over time.

Along with the serious eye diseases that can be related to smoking, smokers are also more likely to have problems with wearing contact lenses. As mentioned before, smokers are at a high risk of developing dry eye syndrome which affects the use of contact lenses.

The good news is that as soon as you stop smoking, the risks associated with it start to go down!