Smoking and your eyes

It is a well known fact that smoking and tobacco use can have detrimental effects on your body, but did you know that it can adversely affect your vision and the comfort of your eyes? Below are just a few affects smoking can have on your eyes; unfortunately, this list is far from a complete list.

  • Smoking and Cataracts
    • While clouding of the lens (also known as a cataract) can occur as a result of the normal aging process, smoking will expedite this process significantly. Compared to non-smokers, current smokers of 20 or more cigarettes a day are 3X more likely to develop a posterior cataract, which is the most visually disabling type. A recent study brings good news to former smokers as it shows that when compared to current smokers, there is a 20% reduced risk of cataract diagnosis in the years that followed.
  • Smoking and Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
    • Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in adults over 65 years old. When the macular cells breakdown, vision becomes blurred and dark in the center; peripheral vision is not usually affected. There is little effective treatment to prevent this condition, but there is one very controllable risk factor: smoking. Smokers have a 2.5-3X more risk to develop the exudative or “wet” form of macular degeneration, which results in severe, irreversible vision loss.
  • Smoking and Glaucoma
    • Glaucoma is disease of the optic nerve and as it progresses, most patients lose their peripheral vision and parts of their central vision. The most common risk for glaucoma is increased eye pressures, as determined by the “puff of air test”. However, as we learn more about this disease, decreased blood flow to the optic nerve is a huge player in developing glaucoma. Smokers have an increased risk to atherosclerosis, a condition where the arteries are clogged, and blood supply is greatly decreased in the eye. One study found that smokers have a 16X higher risk in developing acute ischemic optic neuropathy, which is a sudden, irreversible loss in your peripheral vision. As the eye heals and blood is restored, the lasting vision affects are very similar to glaucoma.
  • Smoking and Dry Eyes
    • There are around 4,000 different chemicals in cigarette smoke, which all cause inflammation to the white part of the eye thereby enlarging the blood vessels and causing “blood shot eyes”. These chemicals can also clog glands in the eyelids responsible for healthy tear production. This will result in increased tearing, itching, and a burning sensation.

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