Dr. R. PREMA
A look at the vision-related problems that smoking can cause.
SMOKY VISION: Smoking increase chances of eye disease. PHOTO: S. SIVA SARVANAN
Smoking also causes more damage to the ears. Smokers are more likely to have hearing impairment, especially at high-frequency noise levels. This is probably because of decreased blood flow to the inner ear. The fact that smokers are less healthy than non-smokers could also contribute to hearing loss. Hearing loss also occurs with exposure to passive smoke
Smoking increases the risk of some urinary tract conditions, and is also associated with atherosclerosis, including the blood vessels that go to the kidney. This causes high blood pressure and loss of kidney function. Smoking tends to cause chronic coughing, which can add to the problem of bladder control, and also increase the risk of bladder cancer.
Smoking causes sleep disturbances linked to insomnia, excessive sleepiness, and sleep-ordered breathing. Severe daytime sleepiness is 60 per cent more likely in smokers than non-smokers. Smoking causes throat muscles to swell and increases the formation of mucus, resulting in snoring.
SMOKING is the leading cause of death and disease worldwide. Want another reason to quit smoking? Smoking has serious effects on your vision. Smoking reduces carotenoid concentrations (beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin) in the blood. Even smokers who eat large amounts of green leafy vegetables will have lower blood concentrations than non-smokers.
Antioxidant enzymes and dietary antioxidants are molecules that neutralise free radials before they do damage the body. These free radicals are a by-product of normal cell metabolism, such as fighting infection or burning glucose for energy. They also help tone the muscles that line the blood vessels, and are important in the production of certain hormones and enzymes.
Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules that have lost one electron and are aggressively looking for a replacement a process that can result in damage because they combine with the body's cells and tissues to get that electron they need.
Vitamins A, C, and E and several minerals are dietary antioxidants received through food and dietary supplements.
However, the bad news is that smoking increases oxidative stress while also reducing antioxidant levels in the blood. This means that smoking increases the damage while simultaneously reducing the only help available to combat it. Smoking also increases the risk of vascular diseases, so the likelihood of damage to the blood vessels in the eyes increase.
The triple whammy of destruction greatly increases chances of developing an "age-related" eye disease. For example, researchers have found a direct correlation between constant smoking and incidence of macular degeneration. Smokers have less than half the macular pigment density of non-smokers, and these low levels increase the risk of developing macular degeneration.
The effects of smoking are cumulative the more you smoke, the worse your vision will be. And the effects are irreversible. Eating more nutritious foods or taking more antioxidant supplements cannot undo them.
People who smoke are at increased risk of developing cataracts, which causes a variety of vision problems, including blurry distance vision, sensitivity to glare, loss of contrast and difficulty in seeing colours.
Smoking is also a preventable risk factor for Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD). Studies have shown that smokers are more likely to develop ARMD than those who have never smoked. ARMD comes in two forms: dry or atrophic and wet or exudative.
Retinal blood vessels
In people with high blood sugar levels, some studies suggest that smoking may be linked to Diabetic Retinopathy or damage to the blood vessels in the retina. The optic nerve is also susceptible to damage from smoking. People with poor diets who smoke heavily and drink excessively run the risk of developing Optic Nerve Related Vision Loss (called tobacco-alcohol amblyopia). Certain optic nerve problems run in families (called Leber's Heriditary optic neuropathy). Smokers who have this condition run an increased risk of vision loss. In some patients with Thyroid Disease (called Graves' Disease), smoking can cause the eyes to become worse, with possible vision loss.
People who do not produce enough tears to keep their eyes comfortably lubricated have a condition called Dry eye. For such people, smoking is a significant irritant, worsening the symptoms of scratchiness and stinging or burning of the eyes.
One study found that temporary abstinence from smoking could improve the night vision of smokers, Several studies found that smokers were more likely to have automobile accidents than non-smokers. Another study reported that, among people who had automobile accidents, smokers were more than two times as likely to have their accidents at night.
Finally, the chronic effects of active or passive cigarette smoking must be acknowledged. Smoking is believed to accelerate the overall aging process in humans and, among other things, we can no longer ignore that smoking can affect visual function.
A non-smoker who, however, works with or is in the constant company of smokers is at a slightly greater risk of contracting macular degeneration.
Since smoking's effects continue to accumulate, the only thing you can do to help your vision is to quit smoking. Patients who smoke appear to be at higher risk for eye disease.
Indeed, smokers seem to also respond less well to therapy. In a small group of patients treated initially with steroids and, six weeks after the beginning of drug therapy, with orbital irradiation, the response to treatment was delayed and considerably poorer in smokers.
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