With adverse health effects like heart disease and cancer, smoking is the single largest cause of disease and premature death in the U.S. The danger to the eyes may be less well known, but no less debilitating.
Smoking increases the risk for developing a variety of eye disorders and diseases such as the following:
Macular Degeneration: Smokers are four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than non-smokers, and three times more likely to suffer a more severe form of AMD. Fortunately, quitting smoking at any age can significantly reduce the risk of contracting AMD.
Cataracts: By reducing the supply of antioxidants to the eyes, smoking may double the risk of developing cataracts, at a younger age and in a worse form than for people who don’t smoke.
Vascular Disease: Smoking contributes to the hardening of the arteries that can cause vein occlusion and optic nerve damage, causing severe damage to vision and even blindness.
Dry Eyes: Smoking can also cause chronic redness of the eyes, worsening allergic eye conditions. In fact, people who smoke are twice as likely to have dry eyes. Even passive smoke can cause considerable eye irritation.
Thyroid Eye Disease: Smokers with thyroid disease are also at a much higher risk of developing thyroid eye disease than nonsmokers. People with thyroid disease are usually advised to stop smoking immediately.
Optic Neuropathy: Since smoking decreases blood flow through the body, it can damage the optic nerve. Toxic optic neuropathy causes rapid deterioration in eyesight and also irreversible blindness.
Uveitis: Studies have shown that smokers may be 2.2 times more likely than nonsmokers to suffer from uveitis, which is a disease caused by the inflammation of the eye’s middle layer.
Diabetic Retinopathy: Smokers may double their risk of developing diabetes, which can cause complications like diabetic retinopathy, which damages the blood vessels of the retina.
Infant Eye Disease: Smoking while pregnant increases the chance of various infant eye disorders such as the underdevelopment of the optic nerve, which is the leading cause of blindness in children. Premature births are another risk of smoking during pregnancy.
Smoking may be a significant risk factor in the above conditions, but it’s also the most controllable risk factor, which can be substantially reduced if one quits smoking. If you have further questions about the risks of smoking to your eyes, please contact our eye care professionals at 877-871-1684.
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