Posted by: Carolinas Center for Sight in Eye Health

It’s been ingrained in our minds from a young age that smoking is a major health concern and should be avoided at all costs. Yet for those who smoke on a regular basis, quitting is so much easier said than done. Your friends and family may have wanted you to quit for a long time, but like any other addictive substance, nicotine is hard to give up no matter what the consequences are.

Alongside the risks of lung, throat, and mouth cancer, emphysema, and more, smoking can actually harm your eyes in a major way. While we often consider the lungs to be the main focus when talking about smoking, our eyes can actually sustain quite a bit of damage and disease from the habit.

It’s All Connected

The outer portion of your eye isn’t the only part of your anatomy that can become affected by smoking. As all of our body parts are connected through blood and tissue, the toxins that you inhale each time you smoke also reach the inner areas of the eye and can lead to an increased risk of a variety of issues.

Cigarette smoke alone can create a huge problem with dry eyes, as the smoke contains thousands of chemicals that can irritate our delicate eye area. Substances including butane, lead, tar, and ammonia are just a few of the compounds that are found within cigarette smoke and can cause burning and itching.

Smoking-Related Conditions

As more and more research is conducted, experts are finding a strong link between smoking and a range of eye conditions. While some of the following concerns will naturally manifest for just about everyone due to older age, individuals who smoke may have a higher risk of developing these diseases sooner in life. They can include:

  • Age-related macular degeneration: A condition that slowly decreases your ability to see, AMD begins as a dark spot in the center of your field of vision. It can gradually grow until you become legally blind and is most commonly found in individuals of an advanced age. However, those who smoke have two times the chance of developing AMD compared to those who don’t.
  • Glaucoma: Another commonly talked about eye condition, glaucoma affects your vision due to pressure on your optic nerve. While it can be treated, it cannot be cured and some individuals gradually lose their most of their sight. Studies in 2017 found that smokers had a significantly higher risk of developing glaucoma compared to non-smokers, and the more cigarettes one smoked, the higher the risk became.
  • Cataracts: Seen later in life as the lenses in our eyes become opaque, cataracts are unavoidable. The rate at which they develop, though, does seem to be strongly linked to cigarette smoking. Just like with AMD, smokers may develop cataracts twice as often as non-smokers.
  • Uveitis: While those who suffer from uveitis typically recover fully after treatment, it’s another condition that can threaten your vision due to smoking. Uveitis is the inflammation and irritation of the middle layer of the eye, and smokers have been noted to have 2.2 times the risk of coming down with this condition.

Smoking brings along with it a huge set of medical concerns, but many people aren’t aware of the effects it can have on one’s eyes until it’s too late. The next time you consider pulling out a cigarette, think about how precious your vision is and if the chance of losing your vision is worth it.