It’s pretty well-established that smoking is awful for our health. We know that it increases our risks for cancers and cardiovascular diseases and that its effects can be passed on to our children, but did you know that it might also affect our sight? A study conducted in part by researchers from Rutgers University in the US shows that people who smoke more than 20 cigarettes a day are more likely to have vision damage – including a lower ability to tell the difference between colours. The study was published in the Psychiatry Research journal.
Researchers gathered 71 healthy participants who’ve smoked under 15 cigarettes in their lifetime and 63 others who smoke at least 20-a-day. The smokers in the study haven’t reported ever trying to stop and are also considered to have a tobacco addiction.
The participants were aged between 25 and 45, and all had a normal vision or one that is normal when wearing glasses or contacts lenses. The strength of their vision was measured using eye charts.
The researchers assessed the participants’ ability to tell the difference between different colours and shades of the same colour while sitting 59 inches away from a 19-inch cathode ray tube monitor (the boxy type we used to use for our home computers). They monitored both eyes of the participants at the same time while the stimuli appeared on the screen. The results of this experiment showed that there were notable differences between smokers’ and non-smokers’ red-green and blue-yellow colour vision.
The researchers believe that this shows that the consumption of chemicals that are harmful to our nervous system (neurotoxins), like those found in cigarettes, might lead to colour vision-loss. They also found that heavy smokers found it harder to tell the difference between shades and colours when compared with non-smokers.
Steven Silverstein, one of the study’s co-authors and director of research at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, says that cigarette smoke contains chemicals that badly affect our health and that it’s also been linked to negative changes in our brains. These changes include the thinning of the layers of the brain and the formation of lesions on the frontal lobe. Additionally, smoking has been linked to reduced activity in the part of the brain that deals with vision.
Silverstein also says that past studies have linked long-term smoking to a doubled risk of poor eyesight brought on by an age-related condition called macular degeneration. He also says that it’s been found to increase the risk of lens yellowing and inflammation. Because of this, he says that this study solidifies the notion that tobacco addiction is linked to vision problems.
Although the study didn’t provide an explanation of how smoking physiologically impacts our vision, Silverstein says it suggests that smoking damages the blood vessels and neurons in the retina and that this is because smoking is known to affect the vascular system.
There you have it, another reason to put down the cigs for good!
If you are looking for support to stop smoking and jumpstart your journey to a healthier you, you can make an appointment at Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Smoking Cessation Clinic. All you need to do is call HMC’s appointment service to get an appointment, or, you can get a referral from a doctor at the corporation or a government health centre. Check out the links below for more information.
Written by Tesneem Ayoub
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