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The Impacts of Smoking in Terms of Eye Health

February 28, 2019

If you’re a smoker, there’s a good chance you’ve heard all the dangers of smoking and the damage that it can do to your body and dismissed it. In many cases, this focus on the lungs or the significantly increased risk of heart disease or cancer. But did you know that smoking can have a devastating impact on your vision?

Most people may think that eyes can be only be damaged on the outer layer because that’s where the smoke will physically come into contact with the eye. While there is an impact on the cornea from the this, cigarette smoke can cause many other kinds of significant damage to the eye.

A cigarette can have as many as 600 ingredients and according to the American Lung Association, those ingredients can produce as many as 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke.

Some of the chemicals that you could expose your eyes to from cigarette smoke include:

  • Formaldehyde
  • Butane
  • Arsenic
  • Benzene
  • Tar
  • Ammonia
  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Acetone

Now, if some of those seem familiar to you, it’s likely because they’re used in things like rat poison (arsenic), nail polish remover (acetone), formaldehyde (embalming fluid), and household cleaning products (ammonia).

Would you pour nail polish remover into your eyes? Of course, not! You would know that it would cause significant damage and a lot of pain. Yet when you smoke cigarettes, you’re letting the same chemicals into your eyes.

So, what kind of damage can those chemicals do?

One of the biggest things that can happen to your eyes is cataracts. Cataracts cause cloudy and blurry vision and, many times, will require surgery to fix the problem. By the age of 80, almost half of all Americans will face cataracts that could require surgery. Studies are showing that smokers have DOUBLE the chance of developing cataracts as non-smokers.

Glaucoma is another eye condition with a risk level that significantly increases when you smoke. Glaucoma is a condition where the pressure within the eye can cause permanent damage to the optic nerve. Studies have shown significantly higher glaucoma statistics for smokers.

Another condition that smokers may face is a higher risk of contracting is uveitis. Uveitis is an inflammation of the eye that impacts the middle layers of eye tissue. The damage from this condition impacts both the retina and the iris and can leave you permanently blind. Studies have shown that smokers have 2.2 times the possibility of developing this condition than non-smokers.

Smoking also significantly increases the risk of macular degeneration. Macular degeneration is when the macula, the central part of the retina, begins to be damaged and that keeps us from being able to determine the fine details of vision. Someone with macular degeneration will eventually develop a blurry vision, blind spots, or have significant visual distortion.

Studies have shown that smokers have a two to four times greater risk of developing macular degeneration than non-smokers. The more someone smokes, the greater the overall risk.

Now, there’s no way to reverse all of the damage that has been done to your eyes if you’re a smoker. However, there is some good news. If you quit smoking, you can significantly reduce the risk to your eyes. One study showed that by quitting smoking, you can cut your risk of macular degeneration by 6.7 percent in just one year! After five years, the risk drops another 5 percent. Doctors have found people that who have quit smoking for 25 years have a 20 percent lower risk of cataracts than current smokers.

Dr. Silverman and the team at OCLI are concerned with your eye health and your overall health. They know that if you can stop smoking you can obtain better eye health and enjoy your vision for many years to come. If you need help, contact the team at OCLI and they will be able to give you guidance on developing a lifestyle that will improve your eye health.

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