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Smoking: Not Just Bad for Your Lungs, But Your Eyes Too

Updated on October 20, 2011
(click for a larger image)
(click for a larger image)

According to recent research in Britain, one segment of the population is 4 times more likely to go blind in old age. This segment represents roughly 1.2 billion people worldwide.

Unlike groups who suffer from diabetes, cancer, or asthma, this at-risk population is at-risk by choice. Most likely you know someone in this group; this group is smokers.

Besides increasing the risks of lung cancer, heart disease, and emphysema, smoking can also negatively affect vision health in a number of ways. One such devastating condition is Macular Degeneration.

Macular Degeneration is a condition affecting the Macula, the center area of vision at the back of the eye. Smoking can damage this area, leading to blindness in the center of one’s vision - preventing one from reading, driving, and living a normal life. Those who smoke are nearly 3 times more likely to develop Macular Degeneration.

Another condition related to smoking is cataract development. A cataract occurs when the otherwise crystal clear lens of the eye becomes cloudy. This condition prevents light from being properly focused, leading to blurred, discolored, or fuzzy vision.

Studies have found that nearly 20% of all cataracts - a condition that accounts for nearly half of the world’s blind population - are due to smoking. Unfortunately, smokers who quit still have a higher chance of developing cataracts even 20 years after quitting.

Other eye conditions attributed to smoking include the worsening of dry eye, poor night vision, and the aggravation of diabetes, which can lead to blinding Diabetic Retinopathy (damage to the Retina, the image capturing tissue of the eye, due to diabetes).

Pregnant mothers who smoke also put their child at risk of Retinopathy of Prematurity, a potentially blinding condition in premature babies. Secondhand smoke also increases the risk of these conditions in others.

As noted with cataract development, throwing your cigarettes out may not be enough (however, the sooner the better). So what can be done if you quit or have recently quite smoking?

Fortunately, researchers have found that digesting fish up to two or three times a week can reverse ocular damage wrought by cigarette smoking. Fish, as well as Flaxseed oil, contain Linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid), a type of polyunsaturated fat.

On the side of a cigarette pack, one finds a warning that cigarettes can lead to heart disease, cancer, and emphysema. Nowhere is there a warning regarding vision health. There should be.

Please, protect the miraculous gift of sight of yourself and those around you – stop smoking today.

Matthew Gordon is the author of The Thin Blue Line: An In-Depth Look at the Policing Practices of the Los Angeles Police Department & To Live, To Think, To Hope - Inspirational Quotes by Helen Keller.

© Matthew Gordon, 2011

*This article is a simple explanation article, and should not be taken as medical fact. A doctor should be consulted for all medical related actions.


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    • Kommoon profile image

      Kommoon 6 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia

      thank you for sharing , I NEVER EVER smoked , but my dad does ;(((( that might effect me somehow , I'm sure ;((((