Most people are well aware of the detrimental effects of smoking cigarettes. From heart disease to cancer, the results are far from positive. Smoking’s negative effects on the body do not stop there; it can also lead to the formation of cataracts.
Smokers run a much higher risk for cataracts than nonsmokers. People who smoke double their chances of forming cataracts, and the risk continues to rise the longer you smoke. Cataracts develop as the proteins in the eyes build up over time. This causes vision to become blurry and colors to appear faded, and increases sensitivity to glare from lights. The smoke from cigarettes contributes to cataracts by altering the cells of the lens in your eye through oxidation. Smoking also leads to the accumulation of heavy metals, such as cadmium, in the eye’s lens.
Additionally, cigarettes contribute to the formation of cataracts due to the number of free radicals present in tobacco smoke. These free radicals damage the proteins and the fiber cell membrane in the lens. It doesn’t stop there; smoking reduces the body’s levels of antioxidants and certain enzymes that may help remove damaged proteins from the lens. This damage can double or even triple the risk of developing cataracts over time.
It is best to never start smoking, but for those who do, quitting can stop perpetuating your risk of developing cataracts. The more you smoke, the higher your risk for developing cataracts. Doctors have found that people who quit smoking for 25 years have a 20 percent lower risk of developing cataracts than current smokers.
Smoking can damage the eyes in more ways than just its contribution to cataracts. Also associated with smoking is age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an incurable eye disease caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina. In addition to AMD, smoking can lead to diabetic retinopathy, dry eyes, optic nerve damage and conjunctivitis.
Choosing not to smoke is always the best option for your health. But if you are a smoker, quitting is the best move you can make for your overall health and the health of your eyes.