Tobacco smoking harms every single part of the body and can penetrate every organ via the blood stream. Our eyes are therefore just as vulnerable to permanent damage from smoking as our lungs and heart.
Over the decades numerous studies have been conducted to determine the exact effect smoking has on the human eye. These studies have produced evidence, which reveal some frightening statistics.
Here is a brief overview of the effects of smoking on the human eye:
As we get older our chances of developing cataracts naturally increases. However an individual smoker doubles their chances of cataracts and the longer a person smokes the more the risk increases.
‘Macular degeneration (MD) is the name given to a group of degenerative diseases of the retina that cause progressive, painless loss of central vision, affecting the ability to see fine detail, drive, read and recognise faces’ (www.mdfoundation.com.au) The effects of macular degeneration are permanent, irreversible and a cure is yet to be found. Studies have discovered that smokers more than triple their vulnerability to macular degeneration. Even more terrifying is the discovery that females (who’ve smoked for most of their lifetime) over the age of 80 are 5.5 times more susceptible to macular degeneration.
A lesser-known eye disease called Uveitis was found to be 2.2 times more likely to develop in smokers than non-smokers. Uveitis occurs when the ‘uvea’ the middle layer of the eye becomes inflamed. The disease also damages the iris and retina, which are the central structures of the eye and increases risk of cataract, glaucoma and retinal detachment.
The US centre for Disease Control and Prevention has found that smoking can nearly double the risk of developing diabetes. Diabetes can cause retinopathy, a disease which damages the blood vessels within the eye causing complete vision loss. There is further research to be conducted into the link between smoking and adult onset diabetes.
A seemingly less severe eye problem that most believe can be treated with over the counter eye drops is Dry Eye Syndrome. However, dry eye syndrome can be difficult to treat and even more difficult to live with. Cigarette smoke is widely known as an eye irritant causing great discomfort, irritation, itchiness, redness and the constant sensation that there is a foreign body in the eye. Dry eyes is twice as common on smokers and those exposed to tobacco smoke (second-hand
Smoking not only harms your own eyes but if you are pregnant you greatly increase the chance of harming your unborn babies eyes permanently. The dangerous toxins from tobacco enter into the mother’s bloodstream and then flow directly to the placenta – this is the baby’s lifeline whilst in the womb.
A common effect of smoking whilst pregnant on babies is strabismus ie. Cross-eyes and can prevent complete development of the optic nerve – this is a leading cause of blindness in children.
Smoking whilst pregnant significantly increases your chances of giving birth prematurely. Any baby born prematurely is more vulnerable to developing permanent eye disease.