Warning: Smoking Can Affect The Eyes

Not everyone knows that smoking can affect the eyes. However, smokers should see an ophthalmologist regularly to check their eye health.
Warning: Smoking Can Affect The Eyes

Last update: 01 June, 2021

Smoking can affect the eyes and virtually the entire body. In the case of the eyes, the damage produced by smoking causes a variety of problems, from conjunctivitis to total blindness. This is one more reason to give up a habit that’s become the number one avoidable cause of death in the world.

The harmful effects of tobacco on the respiratory and cardiovascular systems are well known. However, not many people are aware that smoking can affect the eyes, even permanently. According to estimates, only one in five smokers is aware of this risk.

It’s believed that smokers are twice as likely to lose their vision as non-smokers. The damage comes mainly from tobacco smoke, as it contains toxic substances that initially cause irritation, but then later damage the eyeball. Smoking can even affect the eyes of passive smokers.

How can smoking affect the eyes?

A man lighting a cigarette with a lighter.

Smoking can affect the eyes in various ways and to varying degrees. This depends on many factors, including the amount of tobacco consumed daily, how long the habit’s been maintained, genetics, general state of health, etc.

The main conditions caused by cigarettes, cigars, and pipes are the following:

  • Dry eye syndrome. This presents as itching and roughness when the eyelid moves over the eye. It’s caused by an imbalance of natural tears. The eye becomes red and vision becomes blurred; in the long term, it can lead to corneal scarring.
  • Cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens that blurs vision. This problem can only be corrected with surgery.
  • Diabetic retinopathy. In diabetic individuals, smoking can lead to damage to the blood vessels in the retina. This causes blurred and unfocused vision, which can eventually lead to blindness.
  • Macular degeneration. Smokers are three times more likely to develop this condition. It reduces central vision and the ability to see fine details. It’s treatable, but there’s no cure.
  • Optic neuropathy. This is a sudden loss of vision due to blockage of the blood supply to the eye. It can lead to permanent blindness.
  • Uveitis. This disease affects the iris and ciliary body and is characterized by eye redness, vision problems, and pain.

Symptoms of the condition

Eye conditions often go unnoticed by smokers, partly because some of these problems don’t cause symptoms in the early stages of the disease. Therefore, it’s best to have a regular check-up with an ophthalmologist.

In particular, your doctor should be consulted when some of these symptoms occur:

  • Blurry vision
  • A blurry spot in the center of vision
  • Need for more light to read
  • Viewing of waves in straight lines
  • Trouble recognizing faces
  • Itching and habitual redness in the eyes
  • Difficulty recognizing details in images

Smoking during pregnancy

A woman sitting with a burning cigarette between her fingers.

Smoking while pregnant poses a high risk to the baby. In addition to the already known dangers in this regard, smoking can also affect the child’s eyes in several ways.

Smoking increases the risk of premature delivery. This, in turn, can lead to a serious eye problem called “premature retinopathy”, which causes total blindness in some cases.

Likewise, mothers who smoke during pregnancy are five times more likely to have children who suffer from bacterial meningitis during childhood. This disease leads to serious vision problems and eye infections.

It should be noted that these dangers not only lurk for mothers who smoke directly, but also for those who are in environments that expose them to smoke. Smoking shouldn’t be allowed in the environment of a pregnant woman.

If smoking can affect the eyes, what can we do?

The healthiest measure is to stop smoking. As difficult as it may seem, thousands of people in the world manage to do it every day. The best thing to do is to go to the doctor and ask for help to kick the habit. There are medications and practices, such as meditation, that contribute significantly to achieving this goal.

While you work on quitting smoking, you also need to visit the ophthalmologist regularly. This will help prevent any eye disease that may arise as a result of smoking. It’s also a good idea to exercise and maintain a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish.

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