The health dangers that are most often associated with smoking are cancer and lung disease. But what you might not realize is that smoking can also harm your eyes and endanger your vision. Tobacco smoke contains over 4,000 substances including carcinogens and inflammatory agents. Continued exposure to tobacco smoke can endanger your eye health and that of others around you by increasing the risk for certain eye conditions, including those that can lead to vision loss.

Smoking Causes Damage to Vital Eye Structures

Exposure to cigarette smoke can damage vital structures in your eye, including your retina, lens, uvea, optic nerve, and iris. For example, damage to the retina from smoking can damage the optic nerve. This increases your risk of glaucoma or blindness. Smoking can also cause uveitis, which is the inflammation of the uvea, which can cause pain, red eyes, and vision issues. Your eyes could also experience dry eye because they may not produce enough tears because of smoke exposure.

If you are diabetic, you could develop diabetic retinopathy which occurs when the blood vessels in your eyes are damaged. This condition can cause blurry vision, distorted vision, and blindness. Smoking can also worsen the symptoms of bulging eyes from Graves’ disease.

Smoking is Linked to Two Major Causes of Vision Loss

Studies have shown there is a direct link between smoking and the two leading causes of vision loss – cataracts, which is the clouding of the eyes’ lens and macular degeneration, which occurs from damage to the macula in the retina. Both conditions are related to aging, but if you are a smoker, your risk for developing cataracts triples and can be up to five times more the normal risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

If you are a smoker, your risk will continue to increase for cataracts, AMD and other serious eye conditions. However, the good news is that if you quit smoking, your risk will decrease, and your eye health could improve. If you must smoke, make sure to have your eyes examined yearly and to contact your eye doctor if you experience changes in your vision.

To schedule your annual eye exam, please contact Valley Eyecare Center at 602-955-2700 or by scheduling an appointment online.