Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors
"Are smokers more likely to develop cataracts? "
I've been smoking off and on for about 20 years, and I know that smoking is bad for my health. Recently, I was talking to a friend about some vision issues that I've been having for a few months, such as an increased sensitivity to light and difficulty seeing at night. My friend mentioned that smoking can cause cataracts, and he thought that I may have some signs of cataracts. Do you think I need to see a doctor to get tested for cataracts, and are smokers really more likely to develop cataracts?
Yes, cataracts are one thing on the very long list of health problems caused or made worse by smoking so it's important to discuss this with your ophthalmologist. Cataracts are a clouding that occurs in the lens of the eye (the clear disk inside the eye that focuses light on the retina). Risk factors for cataracts include: increasing age, family history of cataracts, smoking, abusing alcohol, exposure to radiation, excessive exposure to sunlight, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, prolonged use of steroid medications, and previous eye injury or surgery. Some common symptoms of cataracts are clouded or dim vision, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, difficulty with night vision, seeing "halos" around lights, and fading or yellowing of colors. Since you are having several of these symptoms, and have other risk factors such as smoking, it could be a sign that you are developing cataracts. It is a good idea to make an appointment with an ophthalmologist to discuss your symptoms. An ophthalmologist is an eye specialist who will have specialized equipment to look at the lens of your eye to determine whether you are developing cataracts. Regardless, the best thing you can do for your health is stop smoking today. Quitting is not easy, but a great deal of help is available. Visit your primary care physician to talk about quitting smoking. He or she can offer you many resources to help you quit, such as tobacco cessation programs, support groups, and several medication options.
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