Smoking and Your Eye Health - First Eye Care North Arlington

Smoking and Your Eye Health

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Smoking Cigarettes Threatens Your Vision and Eye Health

As science has progressed, we have gained a much better understanding of the effects smoking cigarettes can have on your body. It has become common knowledge just how dangerous they can be for your health. It is the single largest preventable cause of disease and death in the U.S. Every organ in your body is significantly harmed, including your eyes.

Smoking cigarettes often leads to:

  • Lung disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Fertility problems
  • Diabetes
  • And more

While these negative effects can be seen and heard about virtually everywhere you go, the damage they do to your eyes is much less talked about. Many ingredients in cigarettes that cause many of these issues in your body also lead to permanent vision loss.

Smoking leads to several conditions that all threaten the health of your eyes.


Cataracts are characterized by the clouding of your eye’s natural lens and remain the leading cause of blindness throughout the world. An estimated 50% of all Americans will have developed at least one cataract or had cataract surgery before they reach the age of 80. Your vision will begin to blur, and colors will appear much duller and faded.

Cigarettes contain components of heavy metal, such as lead and copper, that collects in your eye’s lens. When they begin to build up, they escalate the development of cataracts. Smoking also reduces the amount of antioxidants in your eyes, increasing the risk of cataracts.

Studies have shown that those who smoke have a much higher risk of developing cataracts at a younger age and much worse than non-smokers. For those who smoke frequently, their risks of developing this condition nearly double.

Macular Degeneration 

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) occurs when the center of the retina, called the macula, is damaged. The macula is responsible for giving you sharp central vision. It is crucial for completing everyday tasks, such as driving, reading and writing, and much more. This condition is often characterized by blind spots in your vision.

Smoking has been proven to increase the likelihood of developing AMD sooner and more severe by almost three times that of non-smokers.

Fortunately, smoking is the easiest factor of AMD to control so by quitting smoking at any point in your life, you can greatly reduce your risk of developing AMD.


Uveitis is not as well-known of an eye condition as many others, but it is just as impactful. It occurs when the uvea, the middle layer of your eye that contains the iris, ciliary body, and retina, becomes infected. This condition can lead to permanent and complete vision loss.

Components of your eye that are crucial for clear vision, such as your retina and iris, are directly harmed. This inflammation can lead to further complications, leading to the development of cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment. Compounds found in cigarette smoke incite inflammation within the eye’s blood vessels, compromising the immune system in the eye.

Research has shown that smokers have a far greater chance of developing uveitis than non-smokers.

Diabetic Retinopathy

It has become well known that smoking often leads to the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes also leads to diabetic retinopathy. This condition damages the blood vessels in your retina, which can lead to vision loss.

Because smoking leads to diabetes, it also increases the risk and speed of developing diabetic retinopathy. Comprehensive eye exams are incredibly helpful when it comes to detecting diabetes. In many cases, your eye doctor will even catch diabetes before your primary care physician does.

The CDC predicts that the number of individuals with diabetic retinopathy will reach nearly 16 million by 2050. A reason for this may be smoking, as smoking cigarettes doubles the risk of developing diabetes. If you do have diabetes and frequently smoke, you increase the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Dry Eye

While dry eye does not threaten your vision nearly like other conditions, it can be quite impactful on your day to day life. Dry eye occurs when your eyes don’t produce adequate tears to keep your eyes properly lubricated. This often leads to your eyes feeling scratchy, burning, or like there is something in them.

Cigarette smoke contains components that are known to be eye irritants, aggravating your dry eye condition. It even worsens the condition for those who don’t even smoke. It makes sense that those who smoke are nearly twice as likely to have dry eye.

Damaged Color Vision

A study conducted by Rutgers University found that smoking greatly impacted how you view colors and contrast. The study took 71 healthy individuals who reported smoking 15 or fewer cigarettes in their lives and 63 people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day. They all fell into the age range of 25 to 45 with normal to corrected-to-normal vision.

What the researchers found was that heavy smokers showed significant changes in their red-green and blue-yellow color vision. They also struggle to recognize contrasts and colors that non-smokers could. The researchers concluded that cigarette smoke contains compounds that greatly reduce the ability to discriminate colors and contrast.

Quitting Smoking 

Smoking cigarettes have long-term negative impacts on every organ in your body. It is a dangerous and often fatal habit. However, it is also an extremely addictive habit that is very difficult to quit. Here at First Eye Care North Arlington, we want to help all smokers kick their habit and ensure they protect their overall health and eye health. Ways to quit smoking include:

  • Individual or group counseling
  • Behavioral therapies
  • Nicotine replacement therapy like nicotine patches, nicotine gum, or lozenges
  • Prescriptions to curb your cravings, including inhalers, nasal sprays, or non-nicotine medications
  • Avoid triggers
  • Don’t quit cold turkey. Ween yourself off them.
  • Meet with your doctor to discuss treatment options

There are countless ways you can try to quit smoking. Not only will your overall health benefit from it but, so will your eye health.

Smoking cigarettes attacks every organ in your body. Your eyes are also organs that are often targeted, yet the impact on them doesn’t receive the attention that other areas receive. Smoking often leads to partial or complete vision loss. We often take for granted our vision, but it’s important for most daily tasks. If you are a smoker or simply wish to check your vision and eye health, contact First Eye Care North Arlington to schedule an eye exam.

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