Smoking and the Risk of Retinal Diseases
Retinal diseases can impair vision, making it difficult to read, drive, or function normally throughout the day. At Pacific Retina Specialists, Dr. David J. Parks provides treatment for retinal diseases to help preserve and improve vision.
Smokers are at particular risk when it comes to retinal diseases and vision problems. Dr. Parks explains the link between smoking and the risk of retinal diseases to our patients in Beverly Hills, CA, along with why it's important to make lifestyle changes to protect eye health.
Smoking Is Bad for Eye Health
Most people are aware that smoking increases the risk of lung cancer and heart disease, but it may come as a surprise that smoking can also affect eye health.
Smoking inhibits blood flow, causing the blood vessels to constrict and reduce blood flow. According to the American Heart Association, smoking may also increase the risk of high blood pressure and plaque within the arteries.
Like other organs in the body, the eye needs oxygenated blood to properly function. When blood vessels feeding the eyes constrict, blood flow is reduced. If plaque begins to build in these vessels, blood flow may be further restricted. Eventually, a lack of sufficient oxygenated blood can cause damage to the eyes, resulting in vision problems.
For people with preexisting retinal disease or who are prone to retinal diseases, smoking can cause damage to occur more rapidly and more significantly. The following are examples of retinal diseases most impacted by smoking.
Age-related Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration, also called AMD, can lead to vision loss in later life. With AMD, the center area of the retina, the macula, becomes damaged, causing central vision to become blurry or blind spots to develop.
Damage to the macula may come from fluid accumulation, as seen in wet AMD, or from a growth of proteins collecting on the macula, as seen in dry AMD.
Smoking can increase the risk of AMD, or make preexisting AMD worse, by restricting blood flow to the eyes.
Diabetic retinopathy is a possible complication of diabetes but it can be made worse by smoking. Diabetic retinopathy occurs when blood vessels in the retina are damaged by excess sugar in the blood.
As the retina becomes damaged, vision will become increasingly blurry. If left untreated, blindness may occur. Damage is irreversible, making it vital for our Beverly Hills patients with diabetic retinopathy to seek treatment as early as possible.
Smoking increases the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy and speeds its progression, especially in diabetics who do not closely monitor their blood sugar levels. Smoking increases the risk by causing the body to become resistant to insulin, making it difficult for diabetics to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Quit Smoking to Reduce Risk
Quitting smoking is one of the most powerful steps smokers can take in improving their health. For those who have a retinal disease, it can help slow the progression of vision damage, especially when paired with treatment at our Beverly Hills practice.
Quitting smoking is easier said than done for many people, but seeking support groups and help from a doctor can help.
Schedule a Consultation
For more information about smoking and the risk of retinal disease, or to find out which treatments are right for you, please call (310) 289-3666 to schedule a consultation at Pacific Retina Specialists.