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How Smoking Impacts Vision

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Smoking harms nearly every system in your body — including your eyes. 

Though we are all aware of the health effects associated with smoking, such as lung cancer, heart disease, and bad teeth, few know about the negative impact it can have on our vision. 

Smoking and Eye Disease 

Smoking, especially 20 cigarettes or more daily over a long period of time, can adversely impact your vision. Cigarette smoke is made up of compounds that can damage health and have been shown to cause cerebral lesions which affect the area of the brain that processes vision.

More specifically, tobacco addiction increases the risk of developing vision-robbing diseases such as macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy. Moreover, smoke is an irritant that can cause or exacerbate dry eye syndrome. Below we'll delve a little further into each of these conditions. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration 

Smokers run a high risk of developing AMD, a condition that severely impairs central vision, making it difficult or impossible to read, drive, recognize faces and colors, and leads to permanent vision loss in those aged 65 or older. Fortunately, the risk can be dramatically diminished by putting an end to tobacco smoking — even if later in life. 

Cataracts

Heavy smokers double their risk of developing cataracts, the leading cause of blindness. Cataracts are characterized by clouded, blurred or double vision, photophobia, and reduced night vision. However, cataract surgery is common and replaces the clouded lens with an artificial intraocular lens. 

Uveitis

Uveitis, the inflammation of the eye's central layer, is an ocular disease that can lead to blindness. This condition damages important structures of the eye, notably the iris and retina, and can lead to cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smokers have a 2.2 times higher risk of developing uveitis than non-smokers. 

Diabetic Retinopathy

Smoking raises one's risk of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy as well. Diabetes damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye, which — in severe cases — can deprive the retina of oxygen and result in blindness.

Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition characterized by insufficient tears to keep your eye lubricated, or the tears are not composed of the correct balance of water, lipids, and mucous to maintain proper lubrication. Common symptoms include red, itchy, and gritty eyes.

Heavy smokers, and those exposed to secondhand smoke, not only double their risk of developing dry eye but also exacerbate an existing condition, especially among the contact lens wearers.

Secondhand Smoke and Eye Disease 

Secondhand smoke— which includes the smoke that emanates from the end of a cigarette as well as the smoke exhaled— is nearly as harmful to health and vision. Second-hand smoke places others' eyesight in danger, particularly in young children and infants. Furthermore, studies indicate that women who smoke during pregnancy put the newborn baby at risk of being born with eye disease or visual impairment that could affect his or her ability to learn.

Stop Smoking to Save Your Vision

The good news is that giving up smoking can have an immediate effect on your health — and it’s never too late to quit! Once the habit is broken, your body will begin to repair itself to prevent vision loss. It can be challenging to quit, as it requires dedication, support, and advanced planning. Dr. Joseph Hickey and the rest of the staff at Drs. Hickey, Burke & Associates in Charlottetown care about your health and will be happy to provide any assistance or resources to help you quit smoking and improve your eye health. Keep in mind that if you smoke, quitting smoking is the most important step you can take to protect your health and vision.

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Coronavirus Update

To all our wonderful patients and others in need,

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, both PEI’s Chief Health Officer and the Prince Edward Island College of Optometrists have recommended that non-urgent eye examinations cease for the time being.

In order to protect our patients, staff and the general public, we of course will follow this recommendation, starting Wednesday March 18, with a further review and decision on April 6th. However, we have no intentions of leaving our patients without eye care and will have one doctor in to see emergency patients each business day. We feel that to fail to provide emergency eye care would only add to the congestion at medical clinics and hospitals.

If you are experiencing any eye problems at all, please call us at 902-368-3001. Examples would include: sudden changes in vision, eye infections, a foreign body in an eye, flashes of lightning in your vision, new floaters in your vision, or broken glasses with no backup to get you by. Those are only to name a few. We will decide whether your situation is urgent in nature and book you in if it is.

We are here for you, even through this difficult time, but expect strict COVID-19 screening questions from our staff when you call.

If you have eyewear ordered with us, you will be receiving a call when it arrives as usual. The staff will make arrangements with you for pick up, however, like all else, we suggest waiting to pick up glasses until we are back to full operations. If you are in need of the glasses, we will arrange for you to pick them up. For contact lenses, any remaining balance will be requested over the phone to limit time and contact in the office and you can then proceed to pick them up. We are also still accepting orders. Some brands can even deliver directly to you. Others we will meet you at our office door with.

After lengthy discussion, we feel that routine adjustments are not essential services and at this time we would ask you refrain from coming in for that service. If you are in a painful situation with your glasses, or they require a major adjustment or repair, please call to discuss a solution.

Please everyone take care and try to carry out the advice being given on limiting the spread of this virus so we can all get back to the Island way of life we all love.