While the detrimental effects of smoking on the lungs and heart are widely known, many aren’t aware that its impact on vision is just as profound. Myopia, on the other hand, is commonly viewed as a benign refractive error that simply requires correction with prescription lenses. The truth is, however, that both myopia progression and smoking increase the chances of developing serious eye diseases that can lead to vision loss.
Here’s the good news — the risks to vision associated with smoking and myopia progression in children are potentially preventable. Just as a chain-smoker can kick the habit to improve eye health, myopia management programs offered at Rye Eye Care's Myopia Control Center can dramatically lower their child’s risk of developing serious ocular diseases later in life.
Let’s Compare Smoking to Myopia Progression
Cataracts occur when the eye’s natural lens begins to cloud, causing hazy or blurred vision. Certain factors can contribute to the onset and severity of the condition, such as advanced age, obesity, eye injury, high myopia, and smoking. In fact, according to a recent study, smokers are 2 times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers.
However, children with medium to high myopia are 5 times more likely to develop cataracts later in life than non-myopic children.
Smoking is the largest controllable factor that contributes to macular degeneration. Studies show that those who smoke are 2 to 4 times more likely to develop macular degeneration than non-smokers.
Myopic macular degeneration (MMD) is caused by a severe eye elongation and retinal stretching — such as in high myopia — which leads to a damaged macula (the small portion of the retina responsible for detailed central and color vision). The higher the myopia, the greater the risk of developing MMD.
The harmful properties in cigarettes can cause uveitis — an inflammation of the uvea (the eye’s middle layer). Uveitis can lead to retinal detachment, which separates the retina from the layers beneath it. This causes field vision loss, floaters, light flashes, and in severe cases — complete vision loss. Smoking more than doubles the chances of developing this condition.
There also is a causal relationship between myopia and retinal detachment. A child with mild myopia is 21 times more likely to develop retinal detachment, whereas a child with high myopia is 44 times more likely to suffer from this serious condition.
Glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States and Canada, occurs when ocular fluid places pressure on the eye, damaging the optic nerve. A few risk factors for glaucoma include high blood pressure, cataracts, and diabetes — all of which are linked to smoking. By kicking the smoking habit, one significantly reduces the risks of developing this vision-robbing condition.
Similarly, children with medium to high myopia are 5 times more likely to develop glaucoma than non-myopes.
How Can Myopia Management Help?
As adults, many of us take actions to maintain good health and preserve our vision, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, and not smoking. Let’s do the same for our children. As depicted above, smoking is as dangerous for the eyes as rapidly progressing myopia.
If your child’s prescription rapidly deteriorates, contact Rye Eye Care's Myopia Control Center for a consultation. Let us help your child diminish the risk of developing ocular disease and vision loss with our effective myopia management program.
Dr. Rajdeep Singh, O.D. serves patients from , , , , and throughout New York.