According to the World Health Organization, tobacco use kills more than five million people per year, and is responsible for one out of every ten adult deaths. It is the single largest preventable cause of disease and death. While most people are aware of the strong causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer or heart disease, many overlook the link between tobacco use and vision problems.

    Here are a few ways smoking can damage your eyes:


    Smoking significantly increases your risk of developing cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s lens, which lies behind the iris and pupil. Cataracts are the most common form of vision loss in individuals over the age of 40. Studies have indicated that smoking can double your risk of forming cataracts, and the chances increase the more you smoke.


    Smoking can increase a person’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by two to five times. AMD is a medical condition that typically affects older adults and results in the loss of central vision, making it difficult for affected individuals to read or recognize faces. Because the retina consumes oxygen at a relatively high rate, inhibiting oxygen delivery to the retina in any way that can easily damage one’s vision. Smoking causes oxidative damage, which can contribute to the development and progression of macular degeneration.


    Smoking can cause high blood pressure, cataracts, and diabetes. All of these conditions are risk factors for glaucoma. To maintain a healthy, constant eye pressure, your eye generates a fluid known as aqueous humor. Normally, a volume equal to the amount of aqueous humor produced is drained from the eye to keep the pressure stable. Individuals suffering from glaucoma are unable to properly drain aqueous humor from the eye, and pressure builds up over time. This buildup of pressure can damage the optic nerve.


    Smoking can lead to the inflammation of the uvea, the eye’s middle layer. This condition, known as uveitis, is more than twice as likely to occur in smokers than in nonsmokers, and can lead to total vision loss. It damages vital structures of the eye, such as the iris and the retina, and can lead to further complications such as glaucoma or even retinal detachment.

    If you’re a chronic smoker, the best thing you can do for the health of your eyes — as well as the health of the rest of your body — is quit smoking as soon as possible. It’s never too late to quit smoking, and even if you’ve already developed vision complications due to tobacco use, quitting now can prevent further damage to your eyes.

    For more information on how you can quit smoking, visit Smokefree.gov.

    Are you a current or former smoker? Do you suspect you might be experiencing tobacco-related vision problems? Contact Silverstein Eye Care Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

    Posted October 8, 2015 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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