Specialists have warned that millions of people in the UK are putting their sight at risk by continuing to smoke cigarettes. The connection is clear and just one in five people recognize that smoking can lead to blindness. The figure was made known from a poll for the Association of Optometrists (AOP). The Royal National Institute for Blind (RNIB) has said that the smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight when compared to the non-smokers. This is because tobacco smoke can cause and worsen a number of eye conditions.
Cigarette smoke has toxic chemicals and has the ability to irritate and harm the eyes. For instance, heavy metals like copper and lead can get collected in the lens, which is the transparent bit that sits behind the pupil and brings rays of light in to focus. Such metals can cause cataracts, where the lens becomes cloudy. Moreover, smoking can make the diabetes-related sight issues even worse as it damages the blood vessels at the back eye which is the retina.
Smokers are around three times more likely to get age-related macular degeneration which is a condition that affects a person’s central vision. Such a condition makes the person lose the ability to see fine details. They become 16 times more likely than the non-smokers to develop the loss of vision that caused by optic neuropathy, where the blood supply to the eye becomes blocked. A poll was conducted that included 2,006 adults and 18 percent correctly said that smoking increased the risk of blindness or sight loss while three-quarters which is 76 percent knew smoking was linked to cancer.
The AOP has recommended that stopping or avoiding smoking is one of the best steps that can be taken to protect the vision along with having regular sight checks. Optometrist and Clinical and Regulatory Adviser for the AOP, Aishah Fazlanie 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.” Fazlanie added that smoking increases the risk of sight-threatening conditions like age-related macular degeneration which is an important reason why smokers must consider quitting.
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