Marking No Smoking Day today (8 March), national charity Eye Health UK has issued a warning to the public, highlighting that the relationship between smoking and sight loss is “as strong as” the link between smoking and lung cancer.
The charity shared that smokers are four times more likely to lose their sight than someone who has never smoked.
Emphasising the risks, the charity explained that chemicals in tobacco smoke trigger biological changes in the eye that can lead to eye disease including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts and thyroid eye disease. It can also cause poor eye health by contributing to conditions such as dry eye, uveitis and impaired colour vision.
Chair of Eye Health UK, optometrist David Cartwright, said: “Cigarettes cause blindness, yet Britain's seven million smokers are largely unaware of the dangers.”
He emphasised that fewer than 10% of smokers realise smoking can affect their eye health, compared to 92% associating smoking with lung cancer and 87% identifying a link between smoking and the risk of heart disease.
Mr Cartwright encourged smokers to quit, adding: “Half of all sight loss in the UK is avoidable and smoking is the single biggest modifiable risk factor. Saying ‘eye quit' and joining the NHS smoke free programme will improve your eye health and significantly reduce your risk of losing your sight. After a decade or so being smoke free your risk of sight loss reduces to that of a non-smoker.”
Research has shown that any amount of smoking, even light, occasional or second-hand can affect your eye health and increase your chances of suffering sight-threatening eye diseases. It has also been found to increase a person’s risk of nuclear cataracts and thyroid eye disease.
To mark No Smoking Day, Eye Health UK has published a range of online information on how smoking can lead to sight loss. Visit its website for more information.