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How smoking affects your eyesight

We are all too familiar with the health risks associated with smoking, such as heart disease and cancer. However, not everybody knows about the fact that smoking may also lead to blindness.

But it's true… smoking puts you at greater risk of developing vision-threatening conditions, such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration - two of the leading causes of vision loss.

Tobacco smoke contains over 7,000 harmful chemical compounds, so it’s not surprising that each cigarette you smoke causes as much damage to your eyes as it does to the rest of your body. Yet another reason to kick the habit!

How smoking affects your eyesight infographic

How does smoking affect your vision?

According to studies, if you smoke, your risk of developing cataracts is twice that of someone who doesn’t smoke. If you're a heavy smoker, your risk can even be tripled! Cataracts are a condition where the lens of the eye becomes gradually cloudier with time, resulting in seeing blurring and faded colours. Researchers suggest that smoking influences cataract formation by interfering with and changing the cells in the lens.

Smoking also increases your chances of developing macular degeneration. In fact, if you smoke you are up to four times more likely to develop this condition. Even if you don't smoke but spend a lot of time around people that do, your risk is greater.

Macular degeneration occurs when the macula weakens. The macula is the small middle part of the retina, which is the light-sensing layer of tissue that resides at the back of the eye. Smoking speeds up this process by disturbing the flow of blood to the retina.

Other effects of smoking on your vision are an increased risk of glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy (if you are diabetic) and, although less severe, dry and itchy eyes. Having dry and itchy eyes as a result of cigarette smoke, may cause you to struggle wearing contact lenses.

What can you do?

Although it may take quite some time, your eyes can heal from damage caused by smoking. For example, research has found that compared to current smokers, those who haven't had a cigarette for 25 years have a 20% decreased risk of cataracts.

If you're struggling to quit, try mixing up your general routine. This will make it easier to break regular habits such as smoking! Taking up regular exercise is also a great way to help you quit because it produces anti-craving chemicals in your brain and you won't feel the usual urge to pick up a cigarette.

Only three days after you quit smoking, your body will be completely nicotine free and you'll be one step closer to a healthy lifestyle. Good luck!