EyeWise Vision Clinic

What Is the Link Between Smoking and Cataracts?

Smoking is widely recognised for its detrimental effects on overall health, majorly affecting the lungs and heart. However, its impact extends beyond these well-known risks, particularly affecting one’s vision. Among the lesser-discussed consequences is the strong link between smoking and the development of cataracts. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking can cause changes in the eyes that lead to vision loss. They add that a person who smokes has an increased risk of developing cataracts than those who do not smoke. 

How Does Smoking Affect Your Vision?

An article by Optometrist Network found that smoking boosts the levels of free radicals in your eyes. These radicals harm the eye’s lipids and proteins. This damage results in the accumulation of deposits on the lens of the eye, which is how cataracts are formed.

Although the antioxidants in your diet are meant to combat these free radicals, smoking can eliminate these protective antioxidants and generate harmful toxins, further increasing the risk of developing cataracts.

Does Secondhand Smoking Also Harm the Eyes?

The Optometrist Network also confirms that secondhand smoke is nearly as dangerous as direct smoking in terms of affecting one’s eye health and vision. 

Exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to similar risks as those faced by active smokers, including an increased likelihood of developing cataracts and other eye conditions like dry eye syndrome and age-related macular degeneration. This is because secondhand smoke contains the same harmful chemicals found in the smoke inhaled by smokers. These chemicals can irritate the eyes and exacerbate existing eye conditions. 

Given these risks, it is crucial to adopt strategies to minimise your exposure to secondhand smoke. This can include creating smoke-free environments at home and in the workplace, avoiding public places where smoking is allowed, and encouraging loved ones who smoke to quit. By taking these steps, you can protect not only your eye health but also contribute to a healthier environment for those around you.

Recognising the Signs: When Smoking Blurs Your Vision

Cataracts form when the eye’s lens becomes clouded, leading to a decrease in vision. If you smoke or are frequently exposed to cigarette smoke, you should be vigilant for signs of cataract, which include:

  • Blurred or dim vision
  • Increased difficulty in seeing at night
  • Being more sensitive to light and glare
  • Seeing “halos” around lights
  • Changing eyeglasses or contact lens prescription frequently
  • Fading or yellowing of colours

When Cataract Becomes a Problem, Consider Cataract Eye Surgery

Should you experience the effects of cataracts due to constant smoking and it affects your ability to function in everyday life, it’s essential that you consult a cataract specialist in Singapore. They can recommend medication or appropriate interventions, such as cataract eye surgery. When you undergo cataract surgery, the surgeon will remove the cloudy lens from your eye and replace it with a lens implant, which is typically made of a flexible acrylic plastic. 

For further information, learn about the different types of cataract surgery

A Clearer Path Forward: Quitting Smoking and Eye Screening

Know that it’s never too late to quit smoking and live a healthier lifestyle. It improves not only your overall well-being but also that of those around you. 

The benefits of stopping smoking also extend to improving your eye health and minimising the risk of other eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration. If you need help in your path towards quitting smoking, you can get help from a healthcare professional who can work with you on a quit-smoking programme. With their help, you can get the resources you need to quit smoking in the long run.

Aside from quitting, you may also need to undergo regular eye screening to assess your eye health. Regular eye screening helps with the early detection and management of cataracts, especially for smokers or those with a family history of the condition. Eye screening can identify cataracts and other eye-related issues at an early stage when they are most manageable. 

In Singapore, various eye care clinics offer comprehensive eye screenings and consultation to help you promote better eye health in the future. As such, it’s encouraged that you take measures to promote better eye health so you can minimise your risk of eye conditions in the future. 

For more information about health conditions that can increase your risk of eye conditions, check out the link between cataracts and diabetes.

Dr. Christopher Khng, specializes in Complex Cataract and Anterior Segment Reconstruction Surgery, in particular, Iris Reconstruction and surgery for Aniridia. His other areas of expertise include Complex Lens surgery, New Lens and Phacoemulsification technologies, Refractive surgery, Phakic IOLs (the Implantable Collamer Lens, ICL), and small-incision, topical anesthesia phacoemulsification cataract surgery. Dr. Khng is a member of the Singapore Medical Association (SMA), a Fellow of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS), and the European Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ECSRS). He is registered with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) in Singapore and with the General Medical Council (GMC) for practice in the United Kingdom.

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