Smoking is one of the most preventable causes of premature death and disease in the US, as it causes harm to almost every organ within the body. This includes the eyes. The health effects of smoking can border between adverse and fatal with the occurrence of well-known conditions such as cancer and heart disease. However, most people are unaware that it can also result in eye problems and sight-threatening problems and increase the risk for the same. With that being said, how does smoking affect one’s vision?
The development of cataracts involves clouding of the natural lenses of the eye. Cataracts are one of the primary causes of blindness globally with more than 50% of the American population having had cataract surgery or developing cataracts by the age of 80. Smokers increase their risk significantly of developing a cataract in comparison to non-smokers. According to studies, people who smoke increase their risk of forming cataracts twice-fold and the more one smokes, the higher the risk since smoking decreases the antioxidant supply to the eyes also contributing to cataract development.
Infant Eye Disease
Women who smoke during their pregnancy usually transmit harmful toxins to their unborn children. In addition, smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of the development of serious health problems including infant and fetal eye disorders. Such disorders include crossed eyes or strabismus and an underdeveloped optic nerve, which is one of the biggest causes of blindness in kids. Smoking during pregnancy also increases the risk of women giving birth prematurely and babies who are born prematurely have a higher risk of developing eye problems in comparison to full-term babies. Other eyesight problems for premature babies include retinopathy of prematurity, which is a disease that is potentially blinding.
Smoking reduces blood flow all through the body and this can lead to damage of the optic nerve. Consumption of methyl alcohol can cause toxic optic neuropathy and it leads to rapid deterioration in one’s vision. If toxic optic neuropathy is not treated within 48 hours or less, it can result in irreversible blindness.
Thyroid Eye Disease
People suffering from thyroid eye disease also have an increased risk of contracting thyroid eye disease if they smoke continuously. The most common type of hyperthyroidism, which is known as Graves’ disease, causes swelling and inflammation in the muscles and soft tissues surrounding the eyes frequently causing bulging and protruding of the eyeballs from their sockets sometimes. Anyone diagnosed with thyroid disease will most probably be advised by his or her physician to quit smoking immediately.
Smoking plays a significant role in the development of arteriosclerosis, which is the hardening of arteries. This condition can worsen in not contribute to the development of vascular eye disease. Optic nerve damage and vein or arterial occlusion can result in blindness or significant vision loss.
Anyone who smokes has four times the risk of getting age-related macular degeneration and anyone who has smoked in the past has three times the risk of developing a more serious type of macular degeneration. Funnily enough, taking wine in moderate portions appears to decrease the risk of developing this health condition.
Smoking can result in chronic redness of the eyes as tobacco smoke, even when passively inhaled, can change the tear film on the eyes. This can worsen allergic eye conditions and dry eye syndrome.