Yet another reason to quit smoking -- Blindness

By Al Saint Jacques, MDLinx
Published November 15, 2015

Key Takeaways

Just when we thought we had run out of ailments to blame on cigarette smoking, researchers have found that smoking is also bad for your eyesight. It has been found to be the "leading cause of vision loss", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Losing your eyesight joins a long list of illnesses that are linked to smoking, but it comes as a surprise to many smokers, according to a CDC news release. Marlene certainly never imagined that smoking could lead to a serious eye disease or even blindness when she started smoking in high school. She's one of the real people in CDC's Tips From Former Smokers (Tips) national tobacco education campaign.

One woman fighting to save her eyesight tells her story in CDC's new ads, with the hope of inspiring smokers to quit now. New, hard-hitting ads appeared across the United States starting March 30, 2015. The ads urge smokers to quit and to call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) or 1-855-DÉJELO-YA (1-855-335-3569) if they want free help.

Smoking causes immediate and long-term damage to the body, including heart disease, diabetes, and many types of cancer. In 2014, the U.S. Surgeon General's report, The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress, confirmed that macular degeneration, Marlene's eye disease, can be caused by smoking. Marlene is one of five people from across the country featured in the newest CDC Tips campaign. These former smokers hope that their personal struggles will inspire other smokers to quit.

Smoking is bad for your eyes, just like it is for the rest of your body. Two of the greatest threats to a smoker's eyesight are macular degeneration and cataracts. Macular degeneration, which also is called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), destroys the central vision that you need to read, drive, and see people's faces, and it can leave you legally blind. Currently, there is no cure for macular degeneration. Cataracts cause blurry vision that worsens over time. Without surgery, they can cause serious vision loss.

Here are some statistics. Smokers are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker. They are also two to three times more likely to develop cataracts compared with a nonsmoker.

The best way to protect your sight from damage linked to smoking is to quit or never start smoking. AMD often has no early symptoms, so a full, dilated eye exam is the best way to spot this eye disease early.

Smoking and Colorectal Cancer

The 2014 U.S. Surgeon General's report linked colon cancer and rectal cancer (colorectal cancer) to smoking. Colorectal cancer causes the second largest number of cancer deaths every year, just behind lung cancer. It's important for all adults to talk with their health care provider about screening tests that can find signs of colorectal cancer early.

Quitting smoking reduces your risk for many types of cancer. For people with cancer, quitting improves the outlook for the future (your prognosis).

Mixing Tobacco Products: Dual Use

When you cut down on cigarettes by adding another tobacco product, you may feel that you're improving your health. Using two or more types of tobacco is called "dual use." It is not an effective way to safeguard your health, whether you're using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes), smokeless tobacco, or other tobacco products in addition to regular cigarettes. Quitting smoking completely is very important to protect your health. Smoking even a few cigarettes a day is dangerous.

Even "light" smokers or "social" smokers can have serious health problems from smoking.

  • Smoking just five cigarettes a day doubles your risk of dying from heart disease.
  • Just cutting back on cigarettes may not protect you from an early death. And on average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.

Resources for Quitting

People who stop smoking can greatly reduce their risk for disease and early death. The younger you are when you quit, the better your chances of avoiding health problems. But quitting later in life still has benefits. The following resources can help you quit smoking:

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