Smoking traditional cigarettes is bad for your eyesight. While you inhale smoke into your lungs, the toxins contained in cigarettes can spread throughout your entire body and can affect your eyes. The effects of smoking can lead to several different ocular problems. Cataracts are just one of these, clouding the eye’s naturally clear lens. This can strongly impair your vision and disrupt your day-to-day routine.
After the age of 50, you are more likely to experience deterioration in your sight. In particular, smoking can increase the chances of developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This is a common condition that wears out the macula (the middle part of your vision), causing blurriness, distortions and even blind spots in your central vision. While smoking does not directly cause AMD, many studies have found smokers have a higher chance of developing AMD than people who have never smoked. At the same time, non-smokers who live with smokers are twice as likely to develop AMD.
Dry eye is another effect of smoking on your eye. Exposure to smoke on any level can irritate your eyes, while cigarette fumes can contribute to dry eye syndrome and reduce the amount of oxygen that reaches your eyes. The fumes also breakdown the lipid layer of the tear film, interfering with the production of your tears and causing dry eye symptoms, such as redness, sore eyes, irritation and swelling.
Diabetic retinopathy is a common complication of diabetes that affects the eye. Blood vessels at the back of the eye are damaged, resulting in light sensitivity and even severe sight loss if not treated immediately, or if changes to your lifestyle aren’t made. Quitting smoking is one way to minimise the risk, as it is associated with diabetic retinopathy.
Smoking is also related to glaucoma, which causes the breakdown of the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss. Unfortunately, diabetes is also linked to glaucoma and if you are both diabetic and smoke, you increase the chances of being unable to see.
Ashish Mathur eye care expert at Feel Good Contacts commented: “Smoking is known to cause serious illnesses such as lung cancer and heart disease. What many smokers don’t realise is that smoking can also lead to blindness. Long-term effects of smoking show strong relations to eye diseases and if not treated, you could in fact lose your sight completely. To prevent vision loss, we recommend quitting smoking and leading a healthier lifestyle. This will reduce the risk of threatening eye conditions and more importantly help prevent sight loss.”
In a bid to quit smoking or to keep up with social trends, smokers are turning to trendy devices such as e-cigarettes. These are full of chemicals which can irritate the eye, make them puffy and cause dry eye syndrome. More research needs to be done to understand the long-term damage to eyes. What is not disputed is that they contain nicotine which is highly addictive. Similarly, shishas are seen as trendy and less harmful than traditional cigarettes because they contain fruit flavoured tobaccos. Like e-cigarettes they are addictive and cause the same irritations to the eyes as e-cigarettes so they should be avoided and not seen as a healthier substitute to smoking traditional cigarettes.
Ashish Mathur concluded: “If you’re a heavy smoker or occasional social smoker of traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes or shishas then we recommend that you visit an optician to check if any specific eye conditions are detected so that they can be dealt with promptly before the condition worsens.”