It’s long been known that smoking is one of the most dangerous, but avoidable, health challenges. Although cancer tends to be the primary concern, smoking can, over time, affect your vision.
Macular degeneration is one of the eye problems with a statistical link to cigarette smoking. A progressive condition for which there’s no cure, macular degeneration causes blurriness as well as the loss of central vision.
While treatment can preserve your eyesight, the ophthalmologists at IC Laser Eye Care advise you to schedule an examination if you think you may be suffering from a loss of vision. We’re macular degeneration specialists and we can halt the progress of the disease while helping you maintain your remaining vision.
About macular degeneration
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), about 80% of people with macular degeneration have a type called dry age-related macular degeneration, or dry AMD. The macula is the part of your retina used to perceive central vision.
As its function erodes, your vision becomes blurry and indistinct, but only in the main focal area of your eyes. Your peripheral vision remains the same. Fine details become harder to discern and you may need more light to read small print.
Dry AMD usually progresses slowly as the macula gets thinner with age and small protein clumps form. Wet AMD progresses much faster, stemming from the growth of abnormal blood vessels under the retina, which can begin to leak, scarring the tissues of the macula and disrupting your sight. It’s possible for dry AMD patients to develop wet AMD later.
The link between smoking and macular degeneration
Environmental pollutants are linked with several eye diseases including macular degeneration. When you smoke, you’re creating a polluted space around yourself and, potentially, others. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that smokers are up to four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.
Smokers also have a greater risk of forming cataracts, in which the lens clouds. Without treatment, cataracts eventually cause loss of eyesight. Unlike AMD, cataracts can be cured with surgery to implant new, artificial lenses.
Additional AMD risk factors
As well as smoking, are other health influences increase the risk of AMD. These risk factors include:
- A diet high in saturated fat
- Age: AMD is more common after the age of 50
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure: increased pressure in retinal arteries could contribute to wet AMD
- Family history of macular degeneration
- Caucasian background: If you’re white, you have a higher risk of macular degeneration
- Overweight: Carrying extra pounds may increase the risk or speed the process of the condition
If you smoke and have one or more of these additional factors, your risk for vision loss could be even higher.
While there’s little you can do about ancestry or race to prevent macular degeneration, you can make lifestyle changes to either slow the progress of the disease or to prevent it in the first place. Quitting smoking may be the most powerful lifestyle modification you can make.
Visit IC Laser Eye Care at the nearest of our three locations for a comprehensive eye exam. If we find signs of macular degeneration, we’ll work with you on a treatment plan that makes sense for you. Book your appointment by phone or online today. Our offices are in Philadelphia and Bensalem, Pennsylvania, and Hamilton, New Jersey.