We all know it: smoking is bad for pretty much every part of our body. Smoking cigarettes can cause a variety of health issues, including different types of cancers, autoimmune diseases and even vision loss.
According to The Macular Society, smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to develop age-related eye health issues. Some of these issues can destroy central vision and is the leading cause of severe vision loss in adults over age 55, affecting millions of Americans each year. Some age-related eye health issues are currently incurable.
Often, age-related eye health issues can be caused by genetics as they can run in families. This is a non-modifiable risk, meaning there is nothing that can be done. However, smoking is a modifiable risk, meaning you have the power to stop the progression of age-related eye health issues.
How exactly is smoking linked to age-related eye health issues?
Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,500 chemicals, which includes arsenic, formaldehyde and ammonia. These chemicals are inhaled into the body and then transported to the fragile tissue of the eye by the bloodstream. There, they damage the structure of cells. These oxidants essentially age your vision.
Research suggests that the tar in cigarettes triggers the formation of deposits in the retina (drusen), which mark the start of age-related eye health issues(The Macular Society).
Quitting smoking isn’t all you can do to protect yourself from age-related eye health issues. Zeaxanthin and lutein are two nutrients found in the back of the eye that protect the eye from harmful blue light and oxidants. However, we don’t eat enough foods that contain these nutrients, and our bodies do not produce them. This means that taking a zeaxanthin based eye vitamin is the next best step in ensuring your vision health.