Posted March 23, 2020
About 14 out of every 100 Americans adults over the age of 18 smoke cigarettes. Most people who smoke are probably aware that smoking can cause medical problems. But they may not know that smoking also can affect their vision. Here’s what smoking does to your eyes.
Research shows that smokers are at greater risk of developing eye diseases. Six common ones are:
- Cataracts – When a cataract forms, the naturally clear lens becomes cloudy, causing blurry vision. Smoking can accelerate this condition because it deprives the eye of nutrients. Many people with cataracts have surgery to remove them.
- Diabetic retinopathy – Smokers with diabetes are at greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This disease damages blood vessels in the eye, causing distorted or blurry vision.
- Age-related macular degeneration – Research shows that smokers are more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This disease attacks a part of the retina called the macula. People with AMD lose central and sharp vision.
- Uveitis – Smoking can damage the uvea, which is located in the middle layer of the eye wall. This layer can become inflamed, causing red eyes, pain and vision problems.
- Glaucoma – Smokers can develop high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for glaucoma. Glaucoma slowly attacks the cells in the optic nerve that send visual information to the brain. Vision loss is gradual, so most people don’t notice changes until the nerve is damaged.
- Dry eyes – Smokers are twice as likely to develop dry eye syndrome as nonsmokers. This disease damages blood vessels in the eye. Eyes can look red and feel scratchy, sting or burn.
This is an auto-immune disease that causes an overactive thyroid. A common symptom of Graves’ disease is bulging eyes. Smokers who get Graves’ disease are at greater risk of developing a more severe form of the condition.
Researchers report that heavy smokers have a diminished ability to see colors clearly. At Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care, scientists studied 71 healthy people and 63 heavy smokers. Healthy people were defined as those who smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes in their lifetime. Heavy smokers were people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes each day. The study found that heavy smokers had greater difficulty seeing contrast and colors.
What smoking does to your eyes is reduce oxygen and nutrients. Medical experts say that smokers can lower their risk of vision problems if they:
- Quit smoking
- Control blood pressure and cholesterol
- Eat healthily
- Schedule regular eye exams
If smokers notice any changes in their vision, they should see an eye doctor immediately.