Most of us know that Smoking is known to cause lung disease and heart disease but many of us don’t realize that it can even lead to numbers of eye disorders and diseases and even lead to blindness. Temporarily, Smoking makes watery eyes, itchiness which can be annoying but smoking puts you at greater risk of developing conditions such as Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, dry eyes, uveitis, vascular diseases, graves ophthalmopathy and so on.
Age related macular degeneration
Smoking increases the chance of developing macular degeneration which occurs when the macula weakens. The macula is the small middle part of the retina, which is the light-sensing layer of tissue that resides at the back of the eye. Smoking speeds up this process by disrupting the blood flow to the retina.
In fact, smokers are four times more likely to develop ARMD than non smokers. Even if non smokers spend a lot of time with people who do smoke, non smokers will also be at high risk of developing ARMD.
If you are a smoker, you are at double risk of developing cataract than non smokers. Cataract is basically clouding of crystalline lens. Mostly it is related to aging. There is evidence that Smoking leads to accumulation of cadmium(heavy metal) in the lens.
In addition with other diabetic complications, there is a relation between smoking and both the development and progression of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic Retinopathy damages the blood vessels in the retina and causes distorted or blurred vision which may lead to blindness.Smoking can also increase your chance of getting diabetes.
According to the US, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5 million Americans of age 40 and older have diabetic retinopathy due to type I and type 2 diabetes and the number will increase to about 16 million by 2050.
Uveitis is basically seen in people who smoke more than non-smokers. It is the inflammation of the uvea (Iris, choroid and ciliary body; middle layer of the eye). It harms the structure of the eye and can lead to cataract, glaucoma,retinal detachment and even vision loss.
Also known as Thyroid Opthalmopathy, is an autoimmune disorder characterized by an increase in volume of fatty connective tissue and enlargement of muscles around the eyes. People who are having thyroid are at high risk of developing thyroid eye disease if they smoke.One of the major signs of grave ophthalmopathy is bulging eyes(Proptosis). If you are diagnosed with thyroid, then your physician will immediately recommend you to stop smoking.
Dry Eyes Syndrome
Conditions in which there is insufficient tears on the eye’s surface. Studies show that Smokers are 82% more likely to get dry eyes than non smokers.
It damages the precorneal tear film layer(lipid layer) by lipid peroxidation and causes dry eyes. Symptoms such as discomfort, burning sensation, epiphora(watery eyes), stinging,itchiness, foreign body sensation may be seen.
Smoking contributes to development of arteriosclerosis(thickening and hardening of the walls of arteries). It can contribute to or worsen vascular disease of the eyes causing artery and vein occlusion as well as optic nerve damage which may cause vision loss and even may lead to blindness.
Pregnancy and infant eye disease
If a mother smokes during pregnancy then there is a transmission of dangerous toxins to the placenta, which will harm the unborn child. Also, if the mother smokes then the baby is more likely to get bacterial meningitis. This is when the tissues around the brain get swell which can cause eye infection.
Studies suggest that smoking during pregnancy is associated with premature births (all babies born prematurely are at higher risk of eye problems like Retinopathy of Prematurity than full-term babies), a higher rate of strabismus, refractive errors, retinal problems and so on.
Studies suggests that other eye health issues related to smoking are
- Lazy Eyes
- Optic nerve damages
Avoiding such habits is the best lifetime investment you can make for your eye health and for your loved ones. Quitting smoking is the best way to ensure that good vision will be maintained for as long as possible.
What do you need to do?
Quitting smoking is not a single event that can happen in a day, it’s a journey. You can improve your health and quality of life if you quit smoking.
Do something to distract yourself and keep yourself busy. Do some exercises and go for a walk. Be health conscious and keep your hands busy with pen and paper, write something. Drink lots of water and relax with deep breathing. As well, you can go to the movies and spend time with non smokers friends and family.
What can you do to prevent vision loss?
The potential risk of eye disease and vision loss can be minimized if the following points are followed :
- Quit smoking
- Control blood pressure and blood sugar level
- Consume healthy diets
- Visit Eye Hospital or Eye Centers regularly
Is nicotine bad for your eye health?
Yes, it is. Nicotine is thought to be a primary addictive substance found in cigarettes. Smoking cigarettes is a major risk factor for developing ocular diseases which I discussed above.
Can I smoke a cigarette after Surgery?
Smoking will surely decrease your resistance to infection and you will have a higher risk of developing chest and wound infection. As smoking will interfere with the healing of bones and other tissues so you will require longer healing times. Better you quit smoking.
Do Smoking Cigarettes Cause Red eyes?
Smoking causes blood vessels to clump together and makes eyes appear red. Tobacco smoke is a toxic eye irritant that can cause red eyes as well as dry and itchy eyes.