Seeing the Truth Behind Smoking and Eyesight


Undoubtedly, cigarette smoke is one of the most toxic consumers’ products – it contains as many as 4,000 active compounds including formaldehyde, tar, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and heavy metals. Studies have shown that its negative impact on the body includes increased risks for chronic degenerative diseases including heart attacks, strokes, and cancers as well as increased complications in pregnancy including premature birth and congenital defects.

But not as well-known are the adverse effects of cigarette smoking on vision. In fact, researchers have directly linked it as one of the leading causes of cataracts and macular degeneration, the most common causes of vision loss. Researchers even believe that it either contributes to or causes several other eye health problems – truly, a cause for concern for everybody who values their sense of sight.  

What’s the Link?

Cigarette smoking has been found to be directly linked to the development of these eye health issues:

  • Cataracts, which occur when the eyes become eventually cloudy, are characterized by faded colors, blurry vision, and increased glare sensitivity. Doctors have discovered a direct relationship between the amount of cigarettes consumed and the development of cataracts – the more you smoke, the higher your risk for cataracts.
  • Macular degeneration, a deterioration of the macula (i.e., the retina’s central part that allows perception of fine details), causes blind spots, blurriness, or distortions in the central vision. Smokers have 2 to 4 times higher risks of developing macular degeneration than non-smokers. Even non-smokers can have increased risks when they are frequently exposed to second-hand smoke.

In both cases, researchers believe that the substances found in cigarette smoke increases the adverse impact of oxidation on the eyes and interferes with blood circulation to the organs. Studies have also shown links between smoking and eye problems like dry eyes, optic nerve damage, conjunctivitis, lazy eye, and diabetic retinopathy.  

What You Can Do

Fortunately, there’s hope for smokers who value their eyesight since quitting the habit can improve the chances of avoiding eye health issues including vision loss. Studies have shown that smokers who quit have reduced risks – by about 6.7% – of developing macular degeneration after just one year. In five years, the risks further reduces by another 5%. This is also true in cataracts but at a significantly slower rate.

The bottom line: Never take up the smoking habit. You should also have regular eye health exams at LensCrafters for good measure.

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