Smoking can cause lung cancer, heart disease, and damage to almost every other organ in the body. But did you know that this unhealthy habit can also injure your eyes? From dry eye syndrome to blindness, learn about six ways that smoking can damage your eyes.
DRY EYE SYNDROME
Image via Flickr by Florian Christoph
Tears are an essential component of good ocular health, for they lubricate the surface of the eye, wash away dirt, and keep vision clear. People who suffer from dry eye syndrome have either poor-quality tears or too few tears. This leads to frequent eye irritation, constant redness, and even the feeling that debris or another foreign body is in the eye. Smokers have a higher chance of developing dry eye syndrome, since tobacco smoke irritates eyes and exacerbates dryness.
The eye's lens is naturally clear, but cataracts cause it to become cloudy. Over time, this leads to blurry and decreased vision. People who smoke have twice the risk of developing cataracts, and the risk can increase if you smoke heavily. Researchers believe that both oxidation and accumulated heavy metals from smoking lead to this type of lens deterioration.
When extraneous fluid builds up in the front area of the eye, it can cause pressure and damage the optic nerve. Known as glaucoma, this disease can lead to vision loss or even blindness. High blood pressure and cataracts, both risk factors for glaucoma, are closely linked with smoking. Since ophthalmologists can often treat glaucoma in its early stages, be sure to visit your eye doctor as soon as possible if you detect vision loss or if you have high blood pressure.
The eye is composed of several layers, and inflammation of the uvea, or middle layer, is known as uveitis. This serious condition harms essential parts of the eye, like the retina and the iris. It can also cause other serious eye problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma, and it can eventually lead to total vision loss. Smokers are more than twice as likely to develop uveitis, but quitting may reduce the risk.
AGE-RELATED MACULAR DEGENERATION
The retina is in charge of focus and sharp vision, and age-related macular degeneration compromises the retina by developing blind spots. Age-related macular degeneration is a major cause of vision loss in people over 65, and smokers are about two times as likely to develop this condition. Quitting smoking at any point in life can lower your chances of developing this and many other eye diseases.
Smokers have increased chances of developing several conditions, including diabetes. Those who already suffer from this condition may struggle to manage it effectively if they smoke frequently. Diabetics can also develop diabetic retinopathy, which damages the retina's blood vessels, causing the retina to swell. This results in blurry vision and causes progressive damage to the retina. If you have diabetes and you're a smoker, be sure to have a comprehensive eye exam once a year.
If you suspect that smoking has damaged your eyes, it's not too late to take preventive action. Contact your eye doctor or call to make an appointment today.