With a surge in eye-related diseases in India, ophthalmologists have said smoking is emerging as one of the major reasons behind vision-loss among patients. However, only 10-20 per cent people are aware of it.
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,” said Sachdev. Talking about prevention, Ritika Sachdev, a Delhi-based opthalmologist, said there is a need for special awareness among people about the strong link between smoking and vision loss.
“First of all, it is important for people to either quit smoking or bring down its consumption. Not just lungs and throat but the eye nerves too get damaged in the entire process,” said Ritika. The doctor added that its 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.