London, United Kingdom
VIJAY SHAH via BBC News
Smoking is a habit that causes numerous health complications, ranging from the characteristic ‘smoker’s cough’ through to serious and life-threatening illnesses such as cancers and emphysema. Now a poll organised by eye specialists in the United Kingdom have found that the majority of the public are not aware that consuming tobacco products can also damage people’s eyes, and that many smokers are at risk of damaging their eyesight, BBC News reported this month.
Smoke from a burning cigar or cigarette contains many harmful and toxic chemicals which can cause or exacerbate eye problems. It is high in heavy metals, such as lead and copper, which can be absorbed into the eye’s lens, creating deposits which can lead to cataracts. Diabetic smokers may find that any sight problems can get worse as the smoke damages blood vessels in the retina, the back of the eye that contains light receptors that help the organ gather light and process images.
Smokers are at greater risk of developing eye problems overall. According to the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), smokers are twice as likely to lose their eyesight. They are also three times more likely to experience age-related macular degeneration, where the vision deteriorates making it difficult to see finer detail in nearby objects when looking at them.
Smokers are also sixteen times more likely to develop sudden loss of vision caused by optic neuropathy, where the blood supply to the eye becomes blocked. Despite these risks being well-known in the scientific community, a poll for the Association of Optometrists (AOP) found that one in five people are not aware that smoking can cause vision loss and blindness.
The pollsters interviewed a selection of 2,006 British adults, of which eighteen per cent knew that smoking can damage the eyes. Furthermore, three quarters (76 per cent) were aware that smoking could lead to developing cancer, partly due to the link being widely publicised by the National Health Service (NHS), the media and anti-smoking campaigners in the UK.
Britain had around 7.4 million smokers, of which around 61 per cent are considering quitting the habit. Figures published by the country’s government agency, the Office for National Statistics, show the proportion of current smokers has been decreasing, with the largest fall since 2011 occurring among 18 to 24-year-olds, partly inspired by the trend for healthier lifestyles amongst that age group.
The AOP urged people to give up tobacco if they wished to preserve their vision, as well making sure to have regular eye examinations at their opticians. Aishah Fazlanie, the association’s Optometrist and Clinical and Regulatory Adviser, said: “People tend to know about the link between smoking and cancer, but many people are not aware of the impact that smoking can have upon the eyes.
“Smoking increases the risk of sight-threatening conditions, such as age-related macular degeneration, which is an important reason why smokers should consider quitting.”
HEM News Agency, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/halfeatenmind
Dr Atanas G Atanasov, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/_atanas_
“Smoking ‘damages eyes as well as lungs’ ” – BBC News/BBC (2 July 2019) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-48824720