Is smoking so bad for your eyes?

Recent studies have shown that smoking leads to blindness. It is a risk factor in the development of age related macular degeneration, it worsens diabetic retinopathy and it can increase the chance of cataracts.

This news resonates with patients and has an important public health message. People value their eyes and they fear blindness. One recent campaign by the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) highlighted the links between smoking and the development of age-related macular degeneration. Reports from Australia and New Zealand have shown that raising this kind of awareness creates a powerful message to the public to stop smoking.

Once a patient is told they may go blind and that is it linked to smoking, many have the desired impetus to stop.

It has been shown that smoking doubles your risk of developing age related macular degeneration and that it occurs earlier compared to non-smokers. The good news is that stopping smoking reduces your risk of developing the disease.

Smoking is linked to the formation of cataracts and although treatable still remain one of the leading causes of sight loss in the UK. A recent Swedish study also showed that quitting smoking reduced your chances of developing cataracts.

Diabetic retinopathy is worsened by poor blood sugar control, raised blood pressure and high cholesterol. Smoking also increases your risk of diabetic retinopathy and this is the most common cause of visual loss in the working population in the UK.

Passive smoking has also been shown to be as bad for the progression of eye diseases.

Smoking leads to blindness. Stopping reduces that risk. It’s a simple message.