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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. R. L. Rodriguez and the rest of the staff at Dr. Rodolfo L. Rodriguez, O.D., P.A. in North Bergen 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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As the COVID-19 crisis develops, I am on-call to treat urgent, need to be seen in person patients only. Eye doctors have gotten the green light to attend to patient’s urgent needs via telemedicine, phone or video chat (face-time type of technology) that permits to talk to the patient and/or to virtually see you and take care of your eye issues, answer questions and to prescribe or refill medications from your home, as we practice shelter-in-place. Insurance have accepted telemedicine charges while we are in this state of emergency. As primary eye care provider we are focused on the health of our patients, our practice remains at the frontline providing essential eyecare. urgent and emergency eyecare to our patients in an effort to alleviate burdens on emergency departments. We are actively monitoring and updating these procedures as the pandemic evolves and new recommendations are issued.

We continue to maintain hygiene and infection control protocols as usual.

NOTICE:

If you returned from outside the US or visited an area defined by the CDC as an area of high risk IN THE LAST 14 DAYS, OR

If you had direct contact with an individual with confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) IN THE LAST 14 DAYS, OR,

If you had direct contact with a person who is currently being quarantined for coronavirus (COVID-19) exposure IN THE LAST 14 DAYS, OR,

If you felt feverish, have difficulty breathing and had a cough in the last 24 hours, please note that you will not be given an in-person appointment.

We are prioritizing in-person examinations only to those that are suspected to be medically urgent or time sensitive and established patients who require in-person ongoing care to prevent vision loss or those who indicate that that they are having injuries or urgent eye care needs. We are rescheduling patients that have non-urgent conditions. Please call my cell phone only for true emergencies: 201-370-1142.

Steps you can take to prevent spread of flu and the common cold will also help prevent COVID-19 (coronavirus):

•Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.

•Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

•Avoid contact with people who are sick.

•Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing.

•Avoid close contact, distance yourself and others, especially important for those who are at higher risk of getting sick to avoid contacting others.

•Strongly recommended that people remain in their homes. Must stay home if you are sick, except to get essential medical care.

•Keep hydrated. You don’t need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks are in short supply and should be save for caregivers. If you are sick, you should wear a facemask when around other people. COVID-19 is particularly serious for the elderly and those immune suppress but can be serious for anyone.

Wishing everyone good health!