Will Cigarette Smoke Affect My Eyesight?

Posted by: Missouri Eye Institute in Blog on March 7, 2022

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approximately 34.3 million adults in the United States smoke cigarettes. And roughly half of them – more than 16 million people – have a smoking-related disease, including pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases.

But damage from cigarette smoke doesn’t stop at the lungs and heart (although that’s scary enough). There’s almost no organ or tissue in the body that doesn’t suffer harm from smoking. Your eyes are no exception.

What makes smoking so dangerous to our eyes?

Cigarettes include neurotoxic chemicals that, when inhaled during smoking, are harmful to health. Researchers contend that these compounds cause damage to the optic nerve and the retinal nerve fiber layer, which degrades color vision and contrast sensitivity in the eyes. No amount of smoking is safe, but a study by Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care suggests that smoking 20 or more cigarettes daily greatly increases the risk of vision loss.

For the record, switching from cigarettes to vaping devices probably isn’t going to do much to decrease your health risks. A 2017 study in Frontiers in Physiology indicates vaping may cause the same oxidative stress that could lead to eye inflammation.

What are the vision risks of smoking?

The American Optometric Association warns that this oxidative stress from smoking and vaping can be dangerous to eyes in several ways:

Kicking the smoking (and vaping) habit is one of the best things you can do for your eyes – and indeed for your overall health. If you smoke, consider getting help to quit from a smoking cessation program. In the meantime, talk to your primary care doctor and your ophthalmologist about ways to protect your eyes from the damaging effects of cigarette smoke.

Missouri Eye Institute has helped thousands of patients attain freedom from glasses and contact lenses. Contact us at (800) 383-3831 to schedule your LASIK consultation or cataract evaluation, or visit MissouriEye.com to learn more about our services.


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