Smoking has long been known to cause adverse health effects such as lung cancer, respiratory diseases, and cardiovascular disease, but many people do not know that it can also have a major effect on eye health and vision. Smoking increases the risk of eye diseases and vision loss.
Smoking and Eye Problems
Cigarettes contain more than 7,000 toxins and chemicals, including nicotine, lead, formaldehyde, ammonia, carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and arsenic. Toxins inhaled when smoking enter the bloodstream and are transported to all parts of the body, including the eyes.
These toxins can damage important parts of your eyes and cause cerebral lesions in the area of the brain responsible for processing vision. Eye diseases caused by smoking can lead to blindness if not treated in time.
Eye Conditions Associated with Smoking
Smoking puts you at greater risk of developing the following eye diseases:
- Cataracts: Cataracts cause blurred and opaque vision that worsens over time. They are a leading cause of blindness. Smokers are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers.
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD): Condition in which a part of the retina, the macula, is gradually damaged, impairing central vision. Central vision is necessary for common tasks such as driving, reading, and recognizing objects. Smokers can have a three-fold or four-fold increase in the risk of developing AMD than non-smokers.
- Dry eye: Caused by insufficient tears on the eye surface. Dry eye syndrome can cause itchiness, redness, and a “foreign body” sensation in the eye. Smoking doubles your risk of developing dry eye syndrome.
- Uveitis: Occurs when the eye’s middle layer, or uvea, becomes inflamed. If left untreated, uveitis can result in complete vision loss. Smokers are twice as likely to develop uveitis as non-smokers.
- Diabetic retinopathy: Smoking increased your chances of getting diabetes by up to 40% and also increases your risk of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes damages the blood vessels of the retina, causing them to leak fluid and blood into the eye.
If you smoke, quitting can lower the risk of developing sight-threatening eye conditions or slow down the progress of existing eye problems. In addition to quitting smoking, there are some other healthy habits you can follow to protect your eye health:
- Eat a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables, fish, fruits, lean protein, and foods high in vitamins C and E
- Get regular physical activity
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol
- Control blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure
- Use sunglasses with protection against UV rays
- Keep a good eye hygiene
- Rest your eyes
Whether you’re a heavy smoker or a passive smoker, speak with your doctor and visit Valley Eyecare for a comprehensive eye exam.