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Can Smoking Increase the Risk of Eye Diseases?

By Gordon Wong, OD on October 31, 2016


A patient undergoing a comprehensive eye exam“Can smoking increase the risk of eye diseases?” The San Diego, CA eye care professionals of Gordon Wong Eye Designs & Optometry are asked this question on a fairly regular basis, most often by smokers during a routine comprehensive eye exam. In most cases, they already know the answer, or at least strongly suspect it, but are hoping that we will provide them with some reassuring statistic or other response that will help to soften the blow.

Unfortunately for them, smoking is as hazardous for the eyes as it is for every other vital organ of the human body. Indeed, if you are a smoker, please know that you are actively endangering your vision. We are informing you of this not as a judgment of your lifestyle choices, but simply to make you aware of the facts. While the vast majority of adult smokers are fully aware of the effects that smoking can have on their lungs, hearts, skin, and mouths, many do not realize how harmful smoking can be to their eyes.

Smoking puts you at heightened risk of a variety of eye diseases and disorders. The best thing you could do for your vision is to quit smoking immediately. We understand how difficult that can be; please contact your physician who can help you find resources to help you quit. If you are resolved to continue smoking, then please be sure to undergo annual eye exams to stay abreast of conditions that could be developing.

How Smoking Could Be Harming Your Eyes

Here are just a handful of the ways that smoking could be contributing to your risk of developing serious eye diseases:

  1. Smoking and Cataracts: Cataracts refer to the clouding of the eyes’ natural lenses due to the accumulation of proteins. While cataracts often develop as the result of aging, smokers are twice as likely to develop cataracts as non-smokers. The more heavily a person smokes, the more likely that person is to develop cataracts before the age of 60, the age at which most people become naturally susceptible to cataracts.
  2. Smoking and macular degeneration: Smoking makes you three times more likely than a non-smoker to develop macular degeneration, a condition marked by the loss of central vision. Fortunately, if you quit now, you dramatically reduce your risk of macular degeneration, and patients who quit once diagnosed with the condition can slow its progress substantially.
  3. Smoking and dry eye syndrome: This probably won’t surprise you too much, but smoking can contribute heavily to your having dry eye syndrome. What you might not have considered, however, is that your second-hand smoke might be causing your loved ones who don’t smoke to develop the condition, as well - especially those who wear contact lenses.
  4. Smoking and uveitis: Uveitis is an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye, or the uvea. This serious condition can result in a variety of complications, including glaucoma and retinal detachment. Sadly, smokers are more than twice as likely to develop uveitis as non-smokers.

Learn More about Smoking and the Risk of Eye Diseases

To learn more about how smoking can increase the risk of eye diseases, please contact Gordon Wong Eye Designs & Optometry today.

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