Smoking is a risk factor for developing eye health conditions such as macular degeneration. But you can take action immediately to reduce your risk.

When it comes to developing macular degeneration, smoking is one of the risk factors you may have control over, unlike aging or genetics.

Research is increasingly linking environmental pollutants to eye diseases. This means if you smoke cigarettes, it may have a negative effect on your eye health.

Keep reading to learn how smoking can increase your risk of macular degeneration and other health conditions — and what you can do about it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports numerous health risks from smoking. The CDC specifically points to the link between cigarette smoking and eye disorders, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Overall, according to the CDC, research suggests that the link between smoking and decreased circulation, increased inflammation, and even blood clots can lead to issues with eye health.

What is macular degeneration?

Macular degeneration is a progressive eye condition that leads to blurriness or loss of central vision. There is a juvenile form of this disease caused by a specific genetic mutation (Stargardt disease), but age-related wet or dry macular degeneration are related more often to aging and lifestyle or environmental factors.

There is no cure for macular degeneration. Once the eye damage is done, it cannot be reversed. Early detection and diagnosis may allow you to take steps to slow progression of the disease and preserve more of your central vision.

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Smoking is believed to be the primary modifiable cause of macular degeneration.

The CDC estimates that smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop age-related macular degeneration.

Many factors associated with the development of macular degeneration, such as age and genetics, can’t be changed.

But the chemicals inside cigarettes, along with the negative effects smoking can have on your immune system, have been linked to retinal damage in the form of macular degeneration and other diseases.

Although you can’t undo damage caused by macular degeneration, experts like the CDC suggest that quitting smoking can help you slow the progression of vision loss.

The effect of environmental pollutants like cigarette smoke on eye health cannot not be underestimated.

Airborne pollutants and chemicals can cause eye irritation and dryness. Cigarette smoke — either direct or indirect — falls into this category.

Outside of cigarette smoke, other specific pollutants and chemicals can cause damage to your eyes. These include:

Cigarette smoking can have several negative effects on your health. In terms of eye health, it’s been directly linked to conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.

Quitting smoking won’t undo any damage if you develop macular degeneration, but it can help slow the progression of the condition and preserve your vision.