Today is the Great American Smokeout.

Smoking remains the single largest cause of preventable disease and premature death in the United States. You probably know that smoking increases your risk of developing heart disease, stroke and cancer. Did you know it can also harm your eye health and vision? Here are a few ways:

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
Studies show that smokers triple their risk of developing AMD compared with people who have never smoked. In fact, smoking is actually the greatest controllable risk factor for developing the disease which affects the retina, causing loss of central vision needed for everyday tasks like driving and reading. While AMD is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in Americans 65 and older, the good news is that quitting at any age can significantly reduce your risk.

Diabetic Retinopathy
The leading cause of blindness in the United States, diabetic retinopathy is caused by high blood sugar levels damaging circulation and the blood vessels in the retina. This can lead to swelling, leakage or closure of the vessels, and ultimately, loss of vision. Smoking significantly increases your risk of developing many diabetic complications, including diabetic retinopathy.

Uveitis is a serious eye disease that involves inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, called the uvea. People who smoke are twice as likely to develop uveitis.

Smoking doubles your risk of developing a cataract which is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. In fact, the more you smoke, the higher your risk.

Infant Eye Disease
Smoking while pregnant increases the risk of premature birth, putting the baby at higher risk of developing a potentially blinding disease called retinopathy of prematurity as well as other health problems.

Ready to Quit?
While all of these eye conditions can sound scary, the good news is that quitting smoking at any age can significantly reduce your risk.

Ready to quit? We encourage you to talk to your primary care physician. In addition, the American Cancer Society has a number of resources to help you.