How Smoking Affects the Health of Your Eyes

Contrary to what people believed in the 1950s, we now know that smoking kills. But smoking doesn’t only harm you by damaging your lungs and heart; smoking and tobacco exposure affect the rest of your body too.

eye health smoking carlsbad
In fact, smoking can increase your risk for developing many types of eye diseases and disorders. Due to the thousands of chemicals that act as irritants and carcinogens, smoking can disrupt blood flow, causing serious damage to the eyes. Who’s at risk? Heavy smokers and ex-smokers who have smoked for multiple years are at risk of eye damage from these serious disorders.
eye health smoking carlsbad

Macular Degeneration

AMD (acronym for age-related macular degeneration) is defined as a condition that gradually destroys the macula. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association regular smokers have more than double the risk of non-smokers ofdeveloping macular degeneration – a condition from which more than 10 million Americans now suffer. People who have smoked in the past have three times the risk of non-smokers of having a more severe form of macular degeneration. Interestingly, drinking wine in moderate amounts seems to lower a person’s risk of developing the disease.

Dry Eye

In much the same way that alcohol affects the eyes, smoking can cause chronic redness of your eyes. Tobacco smoke, even passive smoke inhaled by children, can alter the tear film of the eyes, exacerbating dry eye syndrome and allergies. Dry eye syndrome is more than twice as likely to affect smokers as non-smokers.


Cataracts are characterized by a clouding of the lens in the eye that causes dimmed, blurry or distorted vision. Smoking may increase your risk for developing cataracts or clouding of the lenses, causing the condition to occur much earlier and possibly much more severely than in people who do not smoke. Smoking reduces the supply of antioxidants in our eyes, which may lead to cataracts. Smokers are three times as likely to develop the variety of cataract that’s the most vision-threatening and twice as likely to get a less disabling form of cataract.

Optic Nerve Damage

The optic nerve is responsible for transmitting visual information from the retina to the brain. The chemicals in tobacco can increase the risk of developing a condition known as toxic optic neuropathy, which is characterized by progressive and painless vision loss. Individuals who smoke, drink heavily and eat a poor diet can also develop a condition called tobacco-alcohol amblyopia. According to the Merck Manuals Online Medical Library, this condition initially causes blurring and dimming of vision. A small but growing spot of vision loss called a scotoma may then develop centrally or peripherally, and progressively interfere with vision.There is some light at the end of the tunnel – when you stop using nicotine products, your vision can improve, as can your circulation. So remember, when you’re creating your list of reasons to quit, don’t forget to add protecting your vision near the top!
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Carlsbad Eye Care 6183 Paseo Del Norte Suite 290 Carlsbad, CA 92011 Phone: (760) 603-9910 Fax: (760) 603-9369

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