Cigarette smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight as non-smokers, a new study has revealed.
Although many smoking is generally known to be bad for the lungs, the study published by the Africa Academy of Ophthalmology revealed that smoking can also damage the eyes.
It noted that the chemicals in cigarettes can cause cells in the macula — the most sensitive part of the retina — to die or the blood vessels in it to burst, leading to irreversible damage, and possible loss of sight eventually.
The study noted that this not only affects direct smokers, but even those who experiences second-hand smoking.
“Many non-smokers experience the irritating effects smoking has on their eyes, from burning, watering, and itchy eyes. With this they also stand a chance of getting affected,” noted Dr Aishah Fazlanie, optometrist and clinical and regulatory adviser of the Association of Optometrists (AOP).
Going by the study findings and data from a 2018 survey by the National Authority for the Campaign Against Alcohol and Drug Abuse (Nacada) in Kenya, people at the Coast, Eastern Kenya and Nairobi are at greater risk of losing their sight than those in Nyanza.
The survey indicated that tobacco usage in the country varies widely by region. The Coast and Eastern regions lead, with one in nine people aged 15-65 using smoke and smokeless tobacco products, followed by Nairobi, with 10 per cent.
The prevalence of tobacco use in the three regions is double Nyanza’s five per cent, which was the lowest.
Dr Fazlanie said people know about the link between smoking and cancer and even damage in the lungs, but they are not aware of the impact of smoking on the eyes.
“Smoking increases the risk of sight-threatening conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, which is an major reason why smokers should consider quitting.
According to a 2017 statistical abstract, smoking of cigarettes and cigars is rising.
But a 2018 study by Nacada revealed that the number of Kenyans using tobacco products has been steadily declining in the past six years.
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