Can Smoking Cause Eye Problems?

Smoking is responsible for 6 million deaths every year. Morbidity caused by it is even more common.

Smoking affects all parts of the body including the eyes. Here are some diseases and conditions of the eyes which may be caused or aggravated by smoking tobacco:

1. Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): AMD as the name implies is age-related and is multifactorial. There are two types of AMD – dry and wet. There is no cure for AMD but the progression of dry type can be slowed by quitting smoking.

2. Conjunctival and Corneal Tumors: Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for conjunctival and corneal stratified squamous epithelium tumors. These tumors are the most common type of cancers of the eye. They generally occur in older individuals.

3. Contact Lens Related Problems: Both infective and non-infective complications among contact lens users are more common if they are smokers.

4. Cataract: The most common cause of cataracts is age. Smoking is a minor risk factor for development of cataract especially the nuclear type of cataract which is three times more common among smokers. Smoking not only causes reduction in natural antioxidants it is also responsible for deposition of heavy metals (cadmium, copper and lead), found in tobacco smoke, in the lens of the eye.

5. Retinal Artery Obstruction: Cigarette smoking causes vasculopathic mechanisms which as a result produce emboli. These emboli can cause obstruction of arteries including the retinal arteries resulting into significant visual loss.

6. Nonarteritic Anterior Ischemic Optic Neuropathy (NAION): This condition involves the optic nerve and smoking is a risk factor for NAION.

7. Tobacco-Alcohol Amblyopia: The poor vision or blindness in this condition is attributed to cyanide from tobacco and vitamin B12 deficiency produced by alcohol consumption.

8. Primary Open Angle Glaucoma: In some studies, the eye pressure (intraocular pressure – IOP) was found to be higher in smokers. Therefore smoking is considered to be a risk factor for this type of glaucoma.

So it’s quite obvious that cigarette/tobacco smoking causes multiple sight threatening diseases. If you are concerned about your eye health, keep away from smoking.

[Image by AQanta S Sutarjo/ CC BY 2.0]

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