Did you know that 38 million Americans smoke cigarettes? And over 16 million of them are living with smoking-related diseases? We all know that smoking is bad for you, but did you know that the chemicals in cigarettes can harm the most sensitive part of the retina, called the macula? Your vision can be irreversibly damaged when cells of the macula die, or tiny blood vessels burst through it.
And this isn’t just for those who smoke, it affects everyone who experiences secondhand smoke. Many non-smokers experience the irritating effects smoking has on their eyes, from burning, watering, and itchy eyes to name a few. But little did they know, there are more effects than that.
What Smoking Can Do to Your Eyes and Vision
- Smoking causes inflammation of conjuctiva (the thin membrane covering the eye). Thus resulting in bloodshot eyes and also irritated eyes.
- There is a direct link between cataracts and smoking. Smokers are at risk of developing cataracts.
- Smoking is also linked to the eye disease referred to as macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is caused by cardiovascular disease and is a major cause of blindness in the West. Smoking causes cardiovascular disease.
- One needs to quit smoking to avoid the progress of diabetic retinopathy.
- Blood vessels shrink or get constricted due to smoking causing glaucoma as well as optic nerve damage.
- Chemicals get into the blood stream and burst through the macula (central part of the retina)or the cells in the macula die slowly. It eventually leads to loss of vision.
Getting rid of the smoking habit is the best way to protect one’s eyes. It is difficult to do so, but after all who wants to go blind? It’s important for your own health to quit this bad habit. It’s also imperative for the people you live with that you quit. Babies, kids, and seniors are all especially vulnerable to the effects of inhaling secondhand smoke.
However, even if you do find a method to quit smoking yourself, you still have to deal with secondhand smoke from other people. It’s best to avoid being near designated smoking areas or in the homes of people that smoke.
Suggested Ways to Quit Smoking
For some people smoking is simply a bad habit that they have gotten into. However, for some people smoking can be an addiction. For these people it becomes even more difficult to stop smoking. Many laws have taken effect in the United States that prevent any smoking in work places or public areas such as restaurants and bars. These laws have drastically reduced the exposure to secondhand smoke. They also make it more inconvenient for smokers to go have a smoke, thus challenging their desire and impulse to smoke.
Nicotine patches and gums have also been shown to help some people stop smoking. These can be expensive, and they don’t always work for all smokers. However, if you truly want to stop smoking, they can help to reduce your craving for nicotine.
In recent years, companies have developed electronic cigarettes which use water vapor and a nicotine mix to replace cigarette smoke. For some people these are an effective alternative to cigarettes and contain none of the damaging additives that cigarette smoke contains. They are also safe to use even around people who do not smoke. Another benefit is that there is no heat or fire with this option so there is no chance of a fire starting accidentally. One of the reasons these devices have been successful in helping smokers quit is that they mimic the shape and weight of a cigarette. Those with a behavioral addiction to smoking can replace the act of smoking cigarettes with smoking electronic cigarettes and avoid the adverse health problems.
Some people turn to prescription drugs to help them stop smoking. If this option appeals to you, talk to your medical professional to find out more about the options you may have. Be sure to talk to them about possible side effects from the drugs.
Are There Other Dangers to Our Vision from Smoking?
Since its legalization in many states and in Canada, there has been some concern over the effects of cannabis smoke on the eyes. Many studies point to the benefits of medicinal marijuana on certain ailments, but are there any risks?
The American Academy of Ophthalmology published a recent article on the risks of smoking marijuana on the eyes. They report that regular smoking of marijuana can disrupt the speed at which visual information from the retina is processed in the brain. Although some glaucoma patients use medicinal marijuana to decrease eye blood pressure, there isn’t enough research on the impact it has on the brain. Treating one problem could actually make other vision problems worse. Until there are more studies, use medicinal marijuana with caution and under doctor facilitation.
While it may not actually affect your vision, you should be careful when taking vitamins or supplements that contain vitamin A if you are a smoker. Vitamin A is necessary for eye health and it is often included in eye supplements and eye vitamins. If you are a smoker, talk to your doctor before starting any vitamin or supplement. On the other hand, smokers are often deficient in vitamin C. Consider talking to your doctor about your vitamin C levels and if you should take a supplement.
Many people think that it is simply a matter of people not wanting to quit. This may not be the case at all. If you have tried all the methods to quit smoking you can find and they just aren’t working for you, at least try to take your smoking outside the house. Avoid smoking around babies, children, and seniors. Remember that you risk not only your own vision but that of your family as well if you are smoking in your home.
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