Smoking and eye disorders

Medical content revised by - Last revision 24/05/2018
Smoking and eye disorders

Smoking, due to its toxicity, causes cardiovascular and respiratory problems, cancer and, also, loss of vision. Smoking today is one of the biggest public health problems and it is important to be aware of its consequences for health.

How does smoking affect vision?

Inhaling smoke, made up of toxins that are harmful to the body, can cause serious health problems. Toxins pass from the lung into the bloodstream, spreading these toxic substances throughout the body, including our eyes.

What type of eye disorders cause smoking?

Smoking habit can increase the risk of suffering the following eye diseases:

  • Cataracts; at any age, smoking can increase the risk of cataracts. Cataracts, which is the pathology that appears most frequently in smokers, cause blurred and opaque vision and must be operated by surgery.
  • Dry eye; this disorder happens when the eyes do not produce enough tears. Smoking may worsen the symptoms of this pathology since smoke causes eye dryness and irritation.
  • Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD); smoking increases the chances of suffering from this eye disorder. In this disease a part of the retina, the macula, is damaged and this causes a loss of central vision. There is no cure for this disorder that can cause serious visual disturbances. However there are treatments that can stop it from developing.
  • Diabetic retinopathy; diabetics who are smokers may develop retinopathy more frequently. This occurs when the blood vessels of the retina are damaged. Laser treatment, injected medication, or even surgery may be necessary to control the disease.
  • Problems in the optic nerve; smoking can cause problems in this nerve, which connects the eye with the brain, and can lead to blindness.

Other consequences of smoking

  • Smoking can also affect the tissues around the eyes. Smoking can cause under-eyes bags and disorders of the eyelids such as irritation and inflammation and other skin disorders, which can affect the eyes.
  • In case of pregnancy, smoking causes more chances of giving birth prematurely, increasing the risk of the baby suffering from a visual disorder called retinopathy of prematurity, which occurs when blood vessels in the retina develop abnormally. This disease can produce a retinal detachment in the baby and, in some cases, blindness.
  • The toxins produced by smoking can act as a trigger for other disorders such as Thyroid-associated orbitopathy, frequent in women smokers, which can lead to proptosis or exophthalmos (bulging eyes).

What can I do to prevent the loss of vision caused by smoking?

The good news is that after quitting smoking the risk of suffering from some eye disorders is considerably reduced.

Nevertheless, hereunder you will find tips that you can follow to protect your eyes, in addition to stop smoking

  • Blink the eye frequently to prevent it from becoming irritated and drying out.
  • Protect the eyes of the sun using glasses with protection against UV rays.
  • Rest your eyes when you are performing an activity that forces them (reading, using screens, etc.).
  • Follow healthy eating habits that help maintain good visual acuity.
  • Keep a good eye hygiene.
  • Control blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose to detect possible symptoms of eye disorders.

In any case, stop smoking or stop being a passive smoker, may avoid the development of eye diseases in the long term.

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