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How Smoking Affects Vision

Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes. 

Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and bad teeth, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision. 

How Smoking Impacts Eye Disease 

Smoking, especially 20 cigarettes or more daily over a long period of time, can adversely impact your vision. Cigarette smoke is made up of compounds that can damage health and have been shown to cause cerebral lesions which affect the area of the brain that processes vision.

More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, smoke is an irritant that can cause or exacerbate dry eye syndrome. Below we’ll delve a little further into each of these conditions. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration and Smoking

Smokers run a high risk of developing AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Fortunately, the risk can be dramatically diminished by putting an end to tobacco smoking — even if later in life. 

Cataracts and Smoking

Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by clouded, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is common and replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens. 

Uveitis and Smoking

Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye’s central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers. 

Diabetic Retinopathy and Smoking

Smoking raises one’s risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.

Dry Eyes and Smoking

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.

Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.

How Secondhand Smoke Affects Eye Disease 

Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others’ eyesight in danger, particularly in young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.

Stop Smoking Now to Save Your Vision

The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Dr. Harold Ashcraft and the rest of the staff at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry in Westchester, Los Angeles care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.

If may be hard, since this habit is hard to break. But think about all of the benefits that will come to you, including better health and saving money. It will be worth all the effort you make.

 

Cataract Awareness Month

June is Cataract Awareness Month. During this important time, people living with cataracts (and their loved ones) are encouraged to talk about their personal experiences by giving each other helpful information and sharing their knowledge and advice. Use the hashtag #CataractAwarenessMonth on your social media channels to encourage and support others.

Did you know that over 24 million Americans have cataracts? More than 3.5 million Canadians are blind from cataracts, making it one of the most common – and serious – eye conditions today. Dr. Harold Ashcraft treats cataract patients from all over Westchester, Los Angeles, California with the newest and most effective methods of eye care.

With millions of people living with the condition, it’s now more important than ever to bring awareness to this serious condition.

What Are Cataracts?

So what exactly are cataracts?

The lens of the eye is normally clear, which allows you to see things clearly and in sharp detail. Over time, the lens can become cloudy, causing blurry vision. It’s as if you’re looking through a dirty window and can’t really see what’s outside. This clouding of the lens is called a cataract, and it can affect one or both of your eyes.

What Causes Cataracts?

Aging is the most common cause of cataracts. The lens of your eye contains water and proteins. As you age, these proteins can clump together, and when that happens, the normally clear lens becomes cloudy.

Did you know that certain types of major eye surgeries and infections can trigger cataracts? Other issues that can lead to cataracts include congenital birth defects, eye injury, diseases, and even various kinds of medications. If you’re already developing cataracts, be careful when going outside. UV rays from the sun can make cataracts develop faster.

How Can I Lower My Risk of Cataracts?

Certain risk factors increase your chance of developing cataracts. These typically include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family and medical history
  • Medications
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • UV ray exposure

To lower your risk, consider reducing your alcohol intake, quit smoking, start an exercise program, eat foods rich in vitamin A and C, and wear 100% UV blocking sunglasses.

Common Symptoms of Cataracts

If you have cataracts, you may experience some common symptoms like:

  • Blurry vision
  • Colors that used to be bright now appear dim
  • Double vision
  • Glare from natural sunlight or from artificial light, like light bulbs and lamps
  • Halos around lights
  • Night vision problems
  • Sensitivity to light

If you or a family member notice any of these signs, talk to Dr. Harold Ashcraft right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the faster we can help you get back to clear vision.

Coping With Cataracts

If you’re experiencing vision problems from cataracts, there is hope. If you have a mild case, a combination of a different eyeglass prescription and better lighting in your home, office, or other environment can improve your vision. In more advanced cases, your optometrist will likely recommend cataract surgery to remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear one.

Do I Need Cataract Surgery?

Cataract surgery is one of the most common procedures today. In fact, the American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 2 million people undergo the procedure each year.

During the procedure, the doctor will gently remove the cataract from the eye and replace it with an artificial intraocular lens (known as an IOL). Because it’s a common procedure, cataract surgery is usually performed in an outpatient clinic or in your eye doctor’s office. There is no need to stay in a hospital and you can usually resume your normal activities in just a few days.

If you’ve exhausted every other solution and still suffer from blurry vision from cataracts, surgery may be an option. Schedule a consultation online or call 310-620-6495 to book an eye doctor’s appointment at Family Eyecare Center of Optometry and together, we’ll determine if cataract surgery is right for you. 

During this Cataract Awareness Month, share your stories and successes, and give your loved ones hope for a healthy and high quality of life.

Don’t Let Smoking Take Away Your Sight: 6 Reasons to Quit Today!

2018 is here!

It’s a new year, which means many people are signing up for gym memberships, starting new diets, and resolving to have a healthier and happier year.

Speaking of health—

Did you know that smoking negatively affects every organ of your body?

With every puff of smoke, thousands of toxic chemicals are wreaking havoc on your lungs, your heart, your skin, and yes—even your eyes!

So, what do your eyes have to lose because of smoking? A lot.

Every time you light up, you are increasing your risk of developing the following eye problems:

macular degeneration 300×2251. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

Photo from: https://allabouteyes.com/need-know-macular-degeneration/

Smokers are twice as likely to develop AMD as non-smokers (1). Macular degeneration causes loss of central vision, which may affect your ability to do simple activities like read, drive, or see people’s faces clearly. There is currently no cure for AMD, but there are treatments that can slow down its progress (2).

 

2. Cataracts

Photo from: http://healthletter.mayoclinic.com/common/images/1326/Cataract_Small.jpg

Cataracts impair vision because of a clouding of the eye’s lens. Your vision would be similar to as if you were looking through a fogged-up window. Other signs and symptoms of cataracts include seeing “halos”, light sensitivity, and difficulty with night vision (3). Smokers are two to three times more likely than non-smokers to develop cataracts. (4)

3. Dry Eye

Photo from: https://www.aao.org/image.axd?id=1c14c64c-e971-49ac-8624-d02d90475284&t=636450766679600000

Tobacco smoke aggravates symptoms of dry eye syndrome. Symptoms of dry eye include:

  • Irritation
  • Dryness
  • Feeling of something in the eye; grittiness
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Blurred Vision

4. Retinopathy of Prematurity

Pregnant women who smoke have a higher likelihood of giving birth prematurely. In addition to low birth weight, premature babies are more susceptible to developing a potentially blinding condition, called retinopathy of prematurity. This condition is characterized by the growth of abnormal blood vessels throughout the retina and can cause future eye problems including (5):

  • Retinal detachment
  • Crossed Eyes (Strabismus)
  • Nearsightedness (Myopia)
  • Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)
  • Glaucoma

5. Uveitis

This condition is an inflammation of the uvea, which is the middle layer of the eye. Inflammation can cause permanent tissue damage within the eye. Side effects may include light sensitivity, pain, redness, floaters, and decreased vision (6). Tobacco users are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop uveitis (7)

6. Other conditions

Smoking increases likelihood of developing certain cancers of the eye, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.

The moment you give up smoking is the moment you start to improve your overall health. Watch below to see what changes happen inside your body once you quit smoking.

Your likelihood of developing eye diseases starts to diminish as soon as you quit.

Instead of lighting up a cigarette, let your eyes light up with all the wonderful things they can see!

For tips and support on how to quit smoking, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/index.html

Many eye conditions develop slowly and without immediate symptoms, so we encourage you to continue getting regular eye exams. Start your year off right and give us a call today to schedule your annual eye exam with Dr. Ashcraft.

 

Sources

1—Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/smoking-eyesight/

2—All About Vision. http://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/amd.htm

3–Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cataracts/symptoms-causes/syc-20353790

4—Centers for Disease Control And Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/features/smoking-eyesight/

5–National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/rop/rop

6—National Eye Institute. https://nei.nih.gov/health/uveitis/uveitis

7—American Academy of Ophthalmology. https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/smokers

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