As we join the World Health Organization (WHO) and a host of public health organizations worldwide to observe World No Tobacco Day (WNTD) on May 31, 2023, our team at Belmont Eye Center takes a closer look at the intimate relationship between smoking and eye health.
Did you know that over 16 million Americans currently live with a disease attributable to smoking? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that for every smoking-related death, 30 people endure severe smoking-related illnesses. The statistics are daunting, but events like World No Tobacco Day serve as potent reminders of the life-threatening risks associated with smoking – including its detrimental effects on vision.
Smoking and Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
In a bid to underline smoking’s grave impact on vision, WHO and FDA studies reveal that smokers are more prone to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – up to 5.5 years earlier compared to non-smokers. Shockingly, smokers are also four times more likely to develop AMD. And it’s not just active smokers in the danger zone; second-hand smoke doubles the risk of AMD for non-smokers too.
Smoking and Cataracts: The Hidden Connection
When it comes to cataracts, smokers are found to be 2 to 3 times more at risk than their non-smoking counterparts. As Jude Stern, Head of Knowledge Management at the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, explains, “Smoking increases your risk of developing serious eye conditions and permanent sight loss.”
The Risks of E-Cigarettes
E-cigarettes, often misperceived as a healthier alternative, also pose significant risks. WHO research shows that E-cigarette flavors can augment free radical production, unstable atoms known to damage DNA, lipids, and proteins, thereby increasing the risk of diseases like cancer. Continued e-cigarette usage could induce cataracts, reduce blood flow to the eyes, alter retinal function, and potentially elevate the risk of eye cancer.
The Potential Link Between Smoking, Graves’ Eye Disease, and Diabetic Retinopathy
While research is ongoing, some evidence suggests that smoking may increase the risk of Graves’ eye disease and diabetic retinopathy. As per the FDA, cigarette smokers diagnosed with Graves’ disease may face a heightened risk of Graves’ eye disease.
The Importance of Quitting Smoking
According to the CDC, smokers diagnosed with AMD can potentially slow the disease’s progression by quitting smoking. Apart from this, maintaining regular exercise, healthy blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, and wearing sunglasses to protect eyes from harmful sunlight are other beneficial practices to safeguard eye health.
The Bigger Picture
Cigarette smoking accounts for more than 480,000 deaths annually in the US, with second-hand smoke claiming 41,000 lives. On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than non-smokers. The global impact is staggering, with smoking causing 7 million deaths per year.
At Belmont Eye Center, we advocate for better eye health, which includes educating our patients about the avoidable dangers of smoking. On this World No Tobacco Day, let’s pledge to prioritize our sight and overall health by saying no to tobacco. Remember, quitting smoking isn’t just an investment in your lung health – it’s a vital step towards preserving your precious vision.