You would be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t know that smoking cigarettes is harmful to your health. For many decades, we have been aware of the link between smoking and health conditions like lung cancer and heart disease. However, too few people realize the effect it has on other aspects of your health, including your eye health.
Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the United States. It harms nearly every organ in your body, including your eyes. Yes, smoking can lead to vision loss! Studies show smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome, and more. This is not something to take lightly.
The Effects of Smoking on Your Eye Health
We won’t go into the effects of smoking on your lungs and heart, as these damages are well known. Instead, we’re going to focus on how smoking changes your eyes. Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. It doesn’t just affect your vision in one way, but actually in several. These include:
Smoking Causes Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome describes insufficient tears on the eye’s surface, which are needed to keep the eye lubricated and healthy. Tobacco smoke is a known eye irritant and worsens dry eye. In fact, people who smoke are nearly twice as likely to have dry eyes. This is particularly true for those who wear contacts.
Smoking Causes Cataracts
Smokers have a significantly increased risk of developing a cataract compared with non-smokers, about three times as much. Studies tell us that people who smoke double their chance of forming cataracts. Not only that, and the risk continues to increase the more you smoke. Cataracts are a leading cause of blindness in the world, so smoking could lead to cataracts and cataracts could lead to blindness.
Smoking Causes Macular Degeneration
One major way smoking can affect your vision is through macular degeneration. The center of the retina is responsible for the sharp, central vision you need for everyday tasks such as driving and reading. Macular degeneration causes “blind spots” and often severely impairs this central vision. Studies show smokers are three times more likely to develop macular degeneration compared with people who have never smoked.
Smoking Causes Diabetic Retinopathy
Another way smoking can affect your vision is by developing diabetic retinopathy. More than 5 million Americans age 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy due to type 1 or type 2 diabetes. According to the CDC, this number is growing.
Smoking has been shown to double the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy damages the blood vessels of the retina and can result in vision loss. If you don’t develop diabetes, you aren’t at risk for developing diabetic retinopathy. This is one illustration of how your overall health is affected by many factors, yet still connected.
Smoking Causes Uveitis
The eye’s middle layer is the uvea. Uveitis is the inflammation of the uvea. It is a serious eye disease that can result in complete vision loss. Evidence shows smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have uveitis. A study found that smoking was associated with doubling the risk of having the condition.
Schedule an Annual Vision Exam
Tobacco smoke is a known eye irritant. Clearly, smoking can and will affect your vision. Smokers are up to four times more likely to go blind in old age! It’s never too late to quit smoking and enjoy the benefits of a healthier body. Quitting smoking, no matter how old you are, can reduce your risk of developing the sight-threatening eye conditions listed above.
Smoking does damage to your organs beyond your lungs and even your heart. If you need help quitting, or think you need to be checked for any eye-related health conditions, the team at Eye Care Professionals of Reno are here for you!