Can Smoking Destroy Your Vision?

If you smoke or have family members who smoke, you already know about smoking’s negative health effects. You probably know it can harm your liver, lungs, and stomach, as well as increasing your risk of developing certain types of cancer. But have you thought about smoking’s effect on your eyes?

Because smoking doesn’t appear to have much to do with your eyes, most people don’t think about its ocular effects. However, smoking can have serious consequences for your vision. It can lead to poor eyesight, prevent you from wearing contacts, and even cause blindness.

To learn more about how smoking affects your vision, read the information below. We’ll tell you exactly how smoking harms your eyes and give you helpful tips for quitting.

8 Ways Smoking Harms Your Eyes

Smoking has negative effects on every organ in your body, from your skin to your pancreas to your eyes. Below, we list 10 ways smoking can harm your eyesight:

1. Diabetic Retinopathy

Many non-smokers develop type 2 diabetes with age, and people with type 1 diabetes are usually born with it. However, smoking greatly increases your chances of developing type 2 diabetes-in fact, non-smokers are almost 30-40% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than smokers.

While diabetes affects nearly every part of your body, it causes particularly serious damage in your eyes. Diabetes affects your eyes’ blood vessels, which leak and eventually destroy the retina. The retina translates light to electric signals, which your brain reads as a clear image. Without a working retina, you can’t see.

2. Glaucoma

Primary open-angle glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in America. It usually occurs because of high blood pressure, which increases the pressure in the eye and eventually destroy the optic nerve’s cells. Once the pressure destroys enough cells, you can no longer see. The nicotine in cigarettes raises both your blood pressure and heart rate, which greatly increases your risk of developing glaucoma.

3. Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudy patches on your eyes’ clear lenses that eventually prevent you from seeing. They usually develop over a person’s lifetime as protein deposits on the eyes. Smoking can tripleyour risk of developing certain types of cataracts. Additionally, the more cigarettes you smoke per day, the higher your risk becomes.

4. Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration destroys the macula, or the middle part of the retina. As macular degeneration progresses, it creates blind spots that eventually take over the retina, resulting in permanent vision loss. This disease leads the causes of blindness in people over age 65.

Smoking causes macular degeneration by changing the way blood flows to the retina and depriving its cells of oxygen. As with cataracts, the more you smoke, the more you risk developing macular degeneration.

5. Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome happens when your eye can’t produce enough moisture to create a protective, moist barrier. This causes blurred vision, eye irritation, and light sensitivity. You can’t flush invasive substances like dust out of your eyes, and you’ll feel a constant sense of grittiness in your eyes. Possible complications of ongoing dry eyes include chronic conjunctivitis and corneal ulcers. Smoking dehydrates your body overall, increasing your risk of developing this condition.

6. Uveitis

This disease affects the uvea, your eye’s middle section. It can damage the retina and iris, eventually causing retinal detachment, glaucoma, or cataracts. Compared to non-smokers, smokers have twice the risk of developing uveitis.

7. Difficulty Wearing Contacts

If you already have vision problems, you might need to wear contacts. However, since smoking dries your eyes, you’ll have a harder time putting in your contacts. If your eyes feel too dry, the contacts might cause corneal ulcers and infections, which can develop into serious problems.

8. Graves’ Disease

Grave’s disease is a complicated disease with several symptoms, ranging from thyroid enlargement to heart palpitations to tremors in your hands or feet. It also causes bulging eyes, known as Graves’ ophthalmopathy. Other symptoms include puffy eyelids, inflamed or red eyes, vision loss, and grittiness, pressure, or pain in the eyes.

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disorder, and many non-smokerscontract it. However, smoking increases your risk of developing Graves’ ophthalmopathy. If you exhibit any of the ophthalmopathy symptoms, you must quit smoking immediately to preserve your remaining vision.

2 Ways to Quit Smoking and Protect Your Eyes

If you quit smoking, you’ll protect more than just your eyes-you’ll live longer, and your body will feel better. However, you already know that it’s easier to talk about quitting than to actually quit. You may have tried before with mixed results. But if you don’t want to lose or damage your eyesight, the sooner you can quit smoking, the better. Try some of these tips to keep your vision intact:

1. See a Counselor

A licensed therapist can help you pinpoint triggers that make you want to smoke, and then he or she will help you avoid them. Few people who try to quit cold turkey have success; having a support system in the form of a counselor, friends, and family will help you make a more permanent change.

2. Try Nicotine Replacement Therapy

If you’ve already tried to quit but can’t maintain the change, try nicotine replacements like gum, inhalers, patches, and sprays. These replacements can still harm your body, but they won’t have the same damaging effects as tobacco smoke. Always talk to your doctor about quitting before trying any nicotine replacements.

What to Do Next

If you smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting, and talk to your ophthalmologist for tips on how to prevent further eye damage. If you currently smoke, make regular appointments with your ophthalmologist. He or she can keep you apprised of eye problems and prescribe the right treatments.