Smoking Ups Risk For Age-Linked Vision Loss

Cigarette smoking greatly increases the risk of developing age-related macular generation (AMD). People who smoke are at an increased risk for developing cataracts. Cataract is described as the clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye.

AMD, the leading cause of blindness in affluent countries, is a progressive disease that affects the central portion of the retina.

Combinations of current smoking, low levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, a high ratio of total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, and low fish consumption were associated with a higher risk of late AMD than the effect of any risk factor alone, the researchers said.

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Variety of vision problems occur with cataracts which include sensitivity to glare, blurry distance vision, difficulty seeing colors and loss of contrast. Surgery is the only option if glasses or magnifiers are no longer helpful.

According the recent studies, current smokers and ex-smokers are at more risk of developing age-related macular degeneration than people who have never smoked. There are two forms of AMD: wet and dry.

The occurrence of wet AMD takes place when abnormal blood vessels behind the retina start to grow under the macula. These new blood vessels leak blood and fluid as they tend to be fragile. The macula from its normal place is raised by blood and fluid at the back of the eye. Therefore macula damage occurs rapidly.

When light-sensitive cells in the macula slowly break down, dry AMD occurs and results in blurring central vision in the affected eye. A blurred spot can be seen in the center of the vision when dry AMD gets worse. As macula function is decreased, affected eye loses the central vision gradually.

In some people with high blood sugar levels, smoking can be linked to diabetic neuropathy or damage to the blood vessels in the retina. Smoking can also damage the optic nerve.

AMD is the common cause of visual impairment and blindness in older people. Poor flow of blood to the retina and low amounts of antioxidants present in the blood stream are the contributing factors to AMD.

If people do not produce enough tears to keep their eyes lubricated, they can get the condition called dry eye. In these people, smoking becomes significantly irritant, which worsens the symptoms of burning eyes, scratchiness, and excess tearing from irritation.

The risk of vision loss and eye disease can be lowered with:

  • Quit smoking
  • Eating healthy foods
  • Staying active
  • Controlling blood pressure
  • Controlling cholesterol