Stoptober: By quitting smoking you can reduce your risk of four eye conditions says expert

NHS doctor on the dangers of smoking

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Smoking has long been known to cause heart disease and lung cancer; however, many people don’t realise that smoking can lead to vision loss. What serious eye conditions can develop and according to an expert, what are the best tips to quit?

A cigarette contains over 7,000 different toxic chemicals which cause oxidative stress and can destroy the retina.

Both nicotine and carbon monoxide cause fatty deposits in the eye’s blood vessels, leading to blurry vision and other serious eye conditions.

Parts of the smoke also constrict the ciliary arteries, preventing proper blood flow to the eye.

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director lists the four health conditions linked to smoking which include:


Age-related macular degeneration


Diabetic retinopathy.

“Studies have shown that smoking can double your chances of developing cataracts, triple chances of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), increase the risk of uveitis (inflammation of the middle layer of the eye) and double the risk of diabetes, which in turn could lead to diabetic retinopathy,” he added.

Cigarette smoke might exacerbate diabetic neuropathy partly through the mechanism of oxidative stress and has been confirmed an independent risk factor for diabetic neuropathy.

While traditional tobacco smokers remain the most at risk of developing AMD, research also indicates that vapour from e-cigarettes can cause irritation and lead to dry eye syndrome.

“When you lose more fluid than you take in, your body becomes dehydrated,” added Mr Edmonds.

“Our eyes can become dry and irritated and we can even start to get slightly blurred vision because there are not enough tears to lubricate the eye.”

Smoking can also damage your hearing, with smokers being as much as 70 percent more likely to suffer with hearing loss than non-smokers.

Gordon Harrison, Specsavers chief audiologist added: “Smoking can have a real impact on your hearing as nicotine lowers blood oxygen levels which constricts blood vessels in the body.

“Drinking alcohol to excess can also negatively impact our hearing.

“High alcohol consumption over a long period of time can result in damage to the central auditory cortex of the brain which can then lead to brain shrinkage.

“The damage to the auditory nerve then adds up, meaning even moderate drinkers are at risk.

“This can cause problems for your inner ear, which is where the sensitive hair cells live.”

How to quit

LloydsPharmacy pharmacist Anshu Kaura offered his top tips to quitting which include:

  • Remove temptations
  • Learn more about Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRT)
  • Get support 
  • Stay active
  • Keep busy.

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