Smoking is one vice that is more harmful than it looks. It is linked to numerous health problems and is a leading cause of high number of deaths across the world. It affects nearly every organ in the body. It’s common knowledge that it causes cancer and heart diseases, but not many know that smoking greatly affects the eyes and vision as well.
Exposure to cigarette smoke causes biological changes in the eye which leads to loss of vision. The chemicals present in tobacco smoke hinder with the body’s ability to protect itself from high levels of oxidants and decreases the antioxidants levels in the body. Further, smoking constricts the blood vessels to the eye and reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the macula causing macular degeneration.
Smoking-Related Eye Diseases
Cataracts cause blurry and clouded vision, loss of contrast, and sensitivity to bright light and glare. Smoking increases the risk of developing cataracts at an early age and impairs your vision. In most cases, surgery is the only option to get rid of cataracts. Smokers double their chance of forming cataracts, and continue to increase the risk with constant smoking.
Macular degeneration affects the center of retina and causes ‘blind spots’. It impairs central vision severely and is the leading cause of permanent vision loss and blindness in those over the age of 65. Smoking triples this risk and increases the severity of the disease.
Uveitis is a condition where the eye’s middle layer, uvea, gets inflamed. It’s a serious eye disease that leads to complete vision loss. When you smoke, you double the risk of developing uveitis. This can further lead to glaucoma and cataracts.
This eye disease is caused when the blood vessels of the retina are damaged, resulting in vision loss. High sugar content in the blood stream further promotes this condition. Studies suggest that smoking may be linked to diabetic retinopathy. Smoking is known for increasing the risk of diabetes, thus affected your eyes as well since diabetes is a leading cause of cataracts. There is a causal relationship between smoking, and the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy apart from other diabetic complications.
Eyes get dry when you don’t produce enough tears to keep them comfortably lubricated. This condition is call dry eye and can get quite itchy. Smoking worsens this condition as it acts as an irritant and worsens the symptoms of itchiness, scratchiness and burning of the eyes. The cigarette smoke makes the eyes really red and causes excess tearing from the irritation. Smokers are nearly twice as likely to have dry eyes.
Infant Eye Disease
Smoking during pregnancy affects the eye sight of the baby and it increases the risk of having a baby with facial detects involving eyes such as crossed eyes or underdevelopment of the optic nerve. The chances of lazy eyes in the baby also shoot up. Additionally, smoking during pregnancy is associated with premature birth and low birth rate. Premature babies are given oxygen therapy to sustain their lives, which can cause retinopathy of prematurity, leading to permanent vision loss or blindness.
Resources that help you quit smoking
If you are a smoker who’s always looking for a smoke break, it is crucial that you make a serious effort to kick the habit. You can reduce the risk of developing serious eye diseases as soon as you quit. Don’t hesitate to take help from your doctor or a local community associated with the cause. Make annual eye check-ups a priority to detect any smoking-related eye disease at early stages.