Cigarette smoke gets to your eyes...literally. And what perpetuates the damage is a haze of ignorance. According to a study conducted in UK, only 9.5% people are aware that smoking can cause blindness. ARMD is perhaps the most important peril to the smoker's eyes. With the entire hullabaloo about lung cancer and heart diseases being caused by smoking, the fact that smoking is the most undoubtedly proven, modifiable risk factor causing ARMD is lost in oblivion.
Mr Suresh Nair, a Navi Mumbai businessman echoes this sentiment, "I had never imagined that my fading eyesight could have anything to do with my smoking. i thought that the routine chest X-Rays had my back, but somehow, smoking sneaked in to rob my sight..."
ARMD or Age Related Macular degeneration is a potentially blinding disease seen in the elderly that damages the cells in the macula (the central part of our retina, or light sensitive tissue at the back of the eye). This gradually causes loss of central vision which is most important for daily chores like reading, watching television or driving. Genetic inheritance and environmental factors play a significant role in causing ARMD. No one can say for sure why ARMD is exactly caused. This is why it is of utmmost importance that we arm ourselves with the knowledge of what puts one at risk of ARMD.
Being old, female or having a lighter eye colour, high blood pressure or a family history of macular degeneration puts you at a higher risk of developing ARMD. Unfortunately, there is not much that you can do about any of these. Being obese, spending too much time out in the sun without protection for your eyes, and faulty nutrition like low levels of antioxidant vitamins are some things that are within your control. The most important of these is smoking.
Authored By: Dr. Vandana Jain