Cigarette smoking has long been known to cause cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. However, not many people really realize that smoking can lead to vision loss.
Ophthalmologists have now asserted that the surge in eye-related diseases in India can be largely attributed to smoking.
According to the doctors, smoking appears to be one of the major factors leading to vision-loss, however, only 10-20 percent patients are aware of this fact.
Several studies in the past have demonstrated that smoking amplifies a smoker’s risk of age-related macular degeneration also known as AMD, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and Dry Eye Syndrome.
AMD is an eye disorder that deteriorates the macula, a part of the retina, as a person ages. There are two main types of age-related macular degeneration: Dry and wet macular degeneration. In the dry form of AMD, the centre of the retina deteriorates, while the wet macular degeneration causes abnormal leaky blood vessels to grow underneath the retina.
“AMD begins as a loss of central vision which makes it difficult to read and see fine details. Over time, vision loss increases significantly,” elaborates Mahipal S. Sachdev, chairperson and managing director of city-based Centre For Sight.
According to him, smokers are three to four times more at risk of developing AMD than their non-smoking counterparts. This risk of developing AMD almost doubles in non-smokers if they are living with smokers, Sachdev cautioned.
He suggested, smokers can slash their risk of developing AMD to some extent simply by not smoking.
Sachdev said, like many other eye disorder, vision loss pertaining to smoking does not show any symptoms, but a dilated screening of the eyes can detect vision errors in their early stages before vision loss starts occurring.
“People who smoke in excess like 10 cigarettes a day have up to three times the risk of cataract as non-smokers. Similarly, there is a strong nexus between glaucoma and smoking,” said Sachdev.
Smokers should seek professional help as soon as they find their vision faded or blurred, or if they face trouble seeing things, people in the distance, or experience constant water dripping from their eyes, said Ritika Sachdev, a Delhi-based opthalmologist, while talking about prevention of AMD due to smoking.
“One of the major areas that needs to be emphasised for all smokers includes eating healthy. Protecting eyes starts with a healthy balanced diet. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E might help ward off age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataract due to smoking,” she said.