The effects of smoking on heart and lung health are well known, but in reality, smoking has a negative impact on almost every part of the body, especially the eyes.
Smoking and Macular Degeneration
Age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) is an eye disease that impacts the central area of the retina that is responsible for the sharp, clear vision needed for everyday tasks like reading and driving. ARMD is the leading cause of permanent vision loss in Americans 65 and older. Smokers double their risk of developing ARMD and tend to develop it earlier than nonsmokers. However, this is a controllable risk factor that can be reduced by quitting smoking, even later in life.
Smoking and Cataracts
Cataracts occur when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy, leading to blurry vision and glare. While cataracts are a natural part of aging, smokers tend to develop cataracts requiring surgery sooner than nonsmokers. The risk is higher with increased frequency and longevity of smoking.
Smoking and Diabetic Retinopathy
Diabetic retinopathy is damage to the blood vessels of the retina that can result in serious vision loss or blindness. Smoking increases the risk of becoming diabetic and developing diabetic retinopathy.
Smoking and the Optic Nerve
Glaucoma is a disease that causes damage to the optic nerve, leading to loss of vision. Smoking increases the risk and progression of glaucoma and worsens surgical outcomes. Optic neuritis is an inflammation of the optic nerve that may result in poor vision. Smokers have a higher risk of developing optic neuritis, with poorer recovery, greater progression and increased relapses when compared to nonsmokers
Smoking and Dry Eye
Smoke is an irritant to the front surface of the eye. Exposure, either directly or from secondhand smoke, can cause burning, itching, redness, tearing, foreign body sensation and intermittent blur.
Exposure to smoke, whether directly or secondhand, has a significant damaging effect on vision and eye health. Therefore, stopping smoking is one of the most important things you can do to preserve your precious vision.