Cigarette smoking has been on the rise in Singapore during the past decade, increasing from 12.3 percent in 2004 to 16 percent in 2012, with an alarming rise in smoking rates among young adults from 18 to 35 years of age. Whether recent bans on smoking in restaurants and cafes are going to turn the tide is yet to be seen.
Most media efforts aimed at reducing smoking rates are focused on the effects smoking has on the lungs and heart, but the fact is, smoking effects every organ in your body, and it can have an especially significant effect on eyes and vision.
Smoking not only puts toxins directly into your bloodstream through your lungs, but it also affects your blood vessels, hampering circulation so your organs, including your eyes, can’t get the oxygen and other nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Smoking has been associated with several vision-threatening diseases, including:
- Macular degeneration: Smokers are three times as likely to develop macular degeneration (and irreversible vision loss) as those who don’t smoke.
- Uveitis: Research indicates smokers have more than double the risk for developing uveitis, an inflammatory disease of the eye’s middle layer that can cause complete vision loss.
- Diabetic retinopathy (DR): Smoking doubles the risk of developing diabetes, which means the risk of developing diabetes-related eye disease is also doubled, and studies have shown that among those who have DR, smoking can make the condition worse.
- Cataracts: Cataracts are twice as likely to occur in smokers compared to non-smokers.
- Dry eye syndrome: Smokers are twice as likely to develop dry eye, which can result in infection and other eye-related problems.
The Health Promotion Board currently runs the “I Quit” program to curb and reduce smoking rates, but until then, if you smoke or if you’re exposed to secondhand smoke, the best thing you can do to make sure your eyes stay healthy and your vision stays as clear as possible is to see your eye doctor. Regular checkups are the number one way to protect your eyes and prevent vision loss that can take a significant toll on your own quality of life. At the least, keep an eye out for these alarm signs and make an appointment if you notice any of them.
And if you have children and you smoke, now is the time to stop. Many studies have shown secondhand smoke can have many of the same effects as firsthand smoking, which means your habit could be putting your child’s health at risk. Plus, data from the Ministry of Health indicates nearly 60 percent of young people who start smoking have at least one parent who smokes, which means stopping smoking isn’t just important for your health, but for the health of your kids as well.