According to the doctors, several studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome. “One way to reduce the risk of developing Age related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is by not smoking. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Non-smokers living with smokers almost double their risk of developing AMD,” said Mahipal S Sachdev, chairperson and managing director of city-based Centre for Sight. Macular degeneration causes loss in the centre of the field of vision. In dry macular degeneration, the centre of the retina deteriorates. With wet macular degeneration, leaky blood vessels grow under the retina. Elaborating further, he said: “AMD begins as a loss of central vision which makes it difficult to read and see fine details. Over time, vision loss increases significantly.
Sachdev said vision loss due to smoking does not have any symptoms like many other eye diseases, but a dilated exam can detect eye diseases in their early stages before vision loss occurs.
Some other types of eye-related problems caused by excessive smoking include cataract and glaucoma. People who smoke in excess like 10 cigarettes a day have up to three times the risk of cataract as non-smokers. Similarly, there is a strong nexus between glaucoma and smoking.
Ritika Sachdev, a Delhi-based ophthalmologist, said there is a need for special awareness among people about the strong link between smoking and vision loss. The doctor added that it’s time to seek professional help if any smoker finds that straight lines appear wavy, faded or blurred vision, or trouble seeing things in the distance, or faces or words on a page or constant water dripping from eyes. “One of the major areas that needs to be emphasised for all smokers includes eating healthy. Protecting eyes starts with a healthy balanced diet. Nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E might help ward off age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataract due to smoking,” she said.