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While it is common knowledge that smoking can be damaging to our health, many people are unaware that smokers, as compared with non-smokers, are at a greater risk of developing eye health problems. Early onset of Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts are one of the leading causes of blindness and visual impairment worldwide.

How does smoking affect your vision?

Tobacco smoke is made up of toxic chemicals that are potentially damaging to the eyes. The nicotine poisons the optic nerve and over time, severely impairs eyesight.

Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease affecting the macula, the central part of the retina at the back of the eye that enables vision for daily tasks such as reading, driving and face recognition. Smokers have four times the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration compared to non-smokers. While a cure is yet to be found for the disease, reducing or ceasing tobacco consumption is the most important preventable risk factor to date.

Cataracts

Cataracts is a condition where the lens of the eye becomes cloudy, causing blurred distance vision, sensitivity to glare, loss of contrast and difficulty seeing colours. While cataracts usually develop with age and can run in families, they can be accelerated by environmental factors such as smoking.

The only treatment for cataracts is surgical removal of the lens, however, ones risk can be substantially reduced if exposure to factors known to promote cataract formation – like smoking – are avoided.

For help to quit call the Quitline on 13 78 48

Astigmatism is fairly common and occurs when the cornea is shaped oblong like a football rather than round like a basketball, causing light to focus on two points within the eye instead of one. Mild Astigmatism is commonly found in young children and usually subsides as they grow older. It can often go undetected in school aged children as its slow progression makes the condition difficult to diagnose. While astigmatism can sometimes be present from birth, it can also develop as a result of injury or a trauma to the eye. The good news is that it can be corrected in children through the use of glasses and also naturally through exercises. Warning signs and symptoms As astigmatism can develop in very young children it is important for parents to look out for and recognise common symptoms for early detection. One of the early warning signs is difficulty reading words and letters on the blackboard. If you notice your child narrowing his or her eyes to look at objects in the distance, or holding a book too close to the eyes while reading, your child may be suffering from astigmatism. Poor concentration levels, headaches, blurry vision and tilting of the head to get a clearer image can also be indicators that astigmatism is at play. Treating Astigmatism Astigmatism can be corrected with the use of eyeglasses or contact lenses which are designed to compensate for the irregular shape of the cornea, so that the image is properly focused on the retina. Only a comprehensive eye examination can determine for certain if your child may have uncorrected astigmatism. Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our friendly Optometrists.

Vision is arguably the most important of the five senses as your child’s vision is responsible for 80% of all learning in their first twelve years*. Whether it is reading, writing, blackboard work or using a computer, your child’s eyes are constantly in use both in the classroom and on the sports field. Undetected vision problems can not only interfere with your child’s ability to learn, but can also impact their physical, social and emotional development as well. Left undiagnosed, vision disorders can also be mistaken for behavioural disorders such as ADD or ADHD. Difficulty with attention span, restlessness and frustration both in and out the classroom can stem from the inability to process the volume of visual information required for learning and everyday tasks.

In today’s world, people spend hours a day on laptops, e-readers, smartphones and tablets. So how is all this new technology affecting your eye health? Eye and vision problems related to prolonged periods in front of a screen can result in Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), which affects both children and adults. CVS can lead to tension headaches, dry eyes and eye strain. The main cause of the development of CVS is from focusing on a single target in a fixed spot and not looking away. Eventually, your eye muscles get tired. In most cases, it’s not possible to minimise the amount of time spent in front of the screen. We have therefore included some tips to reduce the risks of CVS: Increase the number of times you blink while focusing on a screen. When looking at a computer screen or smart phone we typically decrease our blinking which can lead to dry eyes. Place any printed copy as close to a monitor as possible. Glancing back and forth between printed copy and your screen or tablet can cause eye strain. Clean your screen. Build up on your screen can cause further strain on your eyes. Ensure you sit up straight. Relaxed positions can restrict blood circulation to your eyes, resulting in weakened vision. Reduce the brightness of your screen so it is as close to your environment as possible. Also, adjust the position of your screen. If your monitor is too high, you need to open your eyes wider to look up and view it. If you are a glasses wearer, an antireflective coating is highly recommended to reduce the light reflecting off the screen. Stay fit and reduce your stress levels by getting fresh air and exercising through the day. Every 20 minutes looking at a screen, take a quick break!

As the winter chill settles in, don’t forget the risk, even when skies are grey, that intense ultraviolet rays can present to eyes. Just because winter days bring with them a change of wardrobe and fewer daylight hours, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear your sunglasses year-round for protection, and look good wearing them! Did you know that overexposure of your eyes to the sun’s powerful UV rays can damage the sensitive tissues of your eyes, just like regular sunburn? So, while you may be tempted to leave your sunglasses behind this winter, think again! Sunglasses are essential in protecting your eyes from UV rays, which can hit your eyes from reflective surfaces such as glare water, rain or snow. This reflection can increase your risk of eye disorders and other complications. Are you a regular skier, fisherman or spend a lot of time in the car? You may want to invest in polarised lenses to help diffuse the impact of dangerous glare. If you are looking for a perfect pair of winter shades, look out for lighter lens colours, and a frame which sits closer to your face to help shield your eyes from the low-lying sun. Take precautions this winter, and preserve your eyes so that you can enjoy the sights of the warm seasons to come!