We all know that smoking is bad for our health — from the cancers and breathing problems it can cause to the increased risk of heart disease.
But did you know that vision problems could be caused by smoking?
Yep, one of the worst things you can do for your vision is to smoke.
#1 — Macular degeneration
You may have heard of age-related macular degeneration. It’s where an area inside your eye becomes damaged and causes a blind spot directly in your line of sight and can lead to permanent blindness. It can happen in one or both eyes.
The issue is that macular degeneration doesn’t have to be age-related but can be smoking-related too since smoking can damage the macula and restrict blood flow to it. That’s why studies have shown that long-term smoking doubles the risk of macular degeneration.
#2 — Color and contrast issues
A new study by researchers at Rutgers University has also found that heavy smokers face additional vision problems. They compared people who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes in their lives to people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day and found significant changes in the smokers’ red-green and blue-yellow color vision.
According to the researchers, this suggests that consuming substances with neurotoxic chemicals, such as those in cigarettes, may cause overall color vision loss.
And that wasn’t the end of the negatives that came with smoking…
They also found that the heavy smokers had a reduced ability to discriminate contrasts and colors when compared to the non-smokers. In other words, if you’re a smoker, you would be less able to pick out a white baseball against a light blue sky or determine the subtle differences in shades of color.
#3 — Decreased visual processing
Still not convinced that smoking could be causing your vision issues? There’s more…
Smoking also acts on your brain itself causing decreased activity in the areas responsible for visual processing. Put simply, even if you see an image, your brain may not be working quick enough to catch all the details.
All of that said, there are things you can do to help your vision recover from the damage caused by smoking.
Of course, no discussion on smoking dangers would be complete without saying that the best thing you can do for yourself is to kick the habit, but we’ll leave the ins and outs of that for another time and just talk about how you can find help for your eyesight…
- Carotenoids — While beta-carotene can help your vision, in smokers, high levels have been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer. Luckily, two carotenoids known as lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to be just as beneficial for your eyes but there is no evidence that they carry the same risk.
- Diet — The right type of diet can lower your risk of vision problems while the wrong type puts you in danger. Foods to include in your day-to-day are lots of fresh fruits and veggies, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and sardines. Foods to avoid include white breads, pastas and rice and high sugar food and drinks like doughnuts, sodas and juices.
- Blood sugar and pressure control — People with poorly controlled blood sugar or high blood pressure are more likely to experience damage to their eyes and vision problems. Get checked regularly and take steps to optimize.
- Sunglasses — Exposure to UV rays increases your chances of eye issues, including macular degeneration. Protect your eyes when you’re outdoors with shades that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
- Eye exams — If you’re experiencing vision problems, get your eyes checked to find out if underlying causes are responsible.
Smoking is incredibly damaging to your eyes, ruining your color and contrast vision, changing the way your brain processes the images you see and setting you up for macular degeneration. The best thing you can do to help your eyes is quit — first and foremost — then follow the recommendations above. Your eyesight is worth the withdrawal!