There is no denying that smoking causes health problems such as heart and lung diseases. Your eye health is not untouched by the smoke of cigarettes. The smoking side effects on eye vision are less talked about, but their impact is hard to ignore.
Effects of cigarette smoking are dangerous and often fatal; you would be familiar with heart diseases and lung cancer caused by the smoking. Maybe you are not so familiar with the smoking facts when it comes to the health of your eyes. The United States alone witness thousands of premature deaths due to smoking, which affects the function of almost every organ. Smoking can cause sight-threatening vision and various eye problems that we generally undermine before other diseases.
Whether it’s a direct smoke and second-hand smoke, your eyes are harmed in different ways and its impact can be realized over a period of time. Moreover, smoking is detrimental in pregnancy as it could cause premature birth and also could put an unborn baby at higher risk for low vision or eyesight problems as well as other health conditions.
Side effects of smoking cigarette or tobacco are linked to various eye problems, such as:
- Smoking and cataracts:
Cataracts (clouding of the eye’s natural lens) are one of the major conditions that could lead to blindness. More than 50 percent cases of low vision are due to cataracts. Cigarette smoking significantly increases the risk of developing a cataract and smokers can experience that degradation in the eye vision as compared to non-smokers.
Smokers almost double the risk of developing cataracts from the normal or non-smokers, and the intensity of this risk increases with every cigarette smoking.
- Smoking and macular degeneration:
The center of the retina, which is needed for achieving a sharp and central vision, is badly affected by the smoking. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) also happens, but smoking can cause this condition a bit earlier.
Some blind spots caused by the macular degeneration impair central vision that gradually leads to the condition of a vision loss, so the people in their 60s and 70s would become totally blind. Studies find that smokers can witness a threefold increase in the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration compared to non-smokers of the same age group. Those women who smoke are likely to develop this problem 5.5 times more than non-smokers in their 80s.
But if you quit smoking in early age, you can reduce the effects of AMD as well as the risk factor associated with macular degeneration.
- Smoking and Uveitis:
Inflammation in the middle layer of the eye (also called Uvea) is a condition of Uveitis, a serious eye disease that can potentially cause blindness.
Uveitis can harm the basic structures of the eye such as the retina and iris, so it poses more complications to the eye’s health. Moreover, the pertinence of Uveitis can cause cataract, retinal detachment, and glaucoma that are serious problems of vision. A study has also found that smoking is associated with a 2.2 times higher than normal risk of developing Uveitis.
- Smoking makes eyes dry:
Tears are essential to keep the eyes lubricated and healthy. The dry eye condition brings itchiness, redness and sensation to the eyes which could affect eye vision.
Smoking can irritate and worsen dry eye. Even second-hand smoke can augment dryness — lens wearers are affected more than non-wearers. Smokers are likely to develop two times higher risk of dry eye than non-smokers.
- Smoking affects eye vision of infants:
Smoking in pregnancy poses health problems in the unborn babies. The toxins of smoke are transmitted to the unborn child that could increase the chances of some infant eye disorders like a low or blurred vision as well as other health conditions.
Some specific eye problems like strabismus (crossed eyes) and immature optic nerve are probably found in those children whose mothers were frequently smoking during pregnancy. These smoking side effects could also cause blindness in children.
The cases of premature birth are also very high in the women who smoke during pregnancy. Such premature babies are prone to high risk of blindness disease in their later ages.
- Smoking and diabetic retinopathy:
Cigarette smoking increases the risks of diabetic retinopathy that can damage the blood vessels of the retina, resulting low eyesight or vision loss. Both men and women living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes can easily develop diabetic retinopathy in their 40s and 50s while smoking can bring this condition earlier than non-smoking habit.
Also, smoking may double the risk of developing diabetes, and then the emergence and progression of diabetic retinopathy make the condition more critical. It’s an established fact that smoking tobacco catalyzes the diabetic complications and then its impact is seen in the eye health.
The heart and lung diseases caused by cigarette smoking are well-known, but we should not ignore its impact on the eye vision. People living with low vision should strictly avoid direct or secondhand smoking. Moreover, the smoking side effects can affect eye’s health so severely that you could lose vision after a certain age. Experts can only advise you to choose a good vision over the smoky vision.