Smoking and Vision

By quitting smoking you offer your eyes a chance to see well into the future.Smokers are consistently bombarded with information about how much damage cigarettes inflict on the lungs and heart. Little data is provided about the ill-effects of smoking on the eyes arguably the most important human sense. Studies have shown that of all five of our senses eyesight is the one that people are most anxious about losing; quitting smoking may be easier knowing that your eyes are suffering a little bit with every puff.

Everyone who has been to a bar or club where smoking is allowed knows that your eyes sting water and blink more often when exposed to smoke. Your eyes can become incredibly itchy and they get much worse if you rub them. And this is just the beginning – these are just the outward physical effects! When you inhale cigarette smoke thousands of chemicals & toxins (approximately 4000 kinds) get into your bloodstream and can travel throughout your body.

One particularly smoke-sensitive area of the eye is the macula which is the most susceptible part of the retina and also happens to be the centre of our vision. It is the area in which we have our sharpest acuity. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue that lines the back of the eyeball
sending visual impulses through the optic nerve to the brain. The macula helps us to see fine details and colours and is absolutely essential for good central vision. The toxins in cigarette smoke are very destructive to the smallest blood vessels in our bodies (capillaries)and the macula has one of the highest densities of capillaries in the body. When you smoke these capillaries are damaged. Years of smoking can result in levels of damage that can drastically reduce the efficiency of these vessels thereby affecting their ability to adequately deliver oxygen and remove waste products to and from the cells of the macula. Over time the cells of the macula may slowly die
leading to permanent loss of vision. This is macular degeneration – a condition that is partially genetic and partially environmental. The environmental contributors are smoking diet and exposure to ultraviolet rays. We have no control over our genetic make-up but we do have control over the environmental factors like smoking.

Smokers also seem to be more susceptible to developing cataracts. In fact smokers are 60 percent more likely to suffer from age-related cataracts. This applies particularly to a form of cataract that appears on the inner surface of the eye lens called a posterior subcapsular cataract. This type is difficult to remove with surgery and it affects smokers three times more than non-smokers.

All parts of the body are interconnected; if one part is suffering then it is more than likely that another part will be adversely affected. Cigarettes can reduce levels of plasma antioxidant
a substance in the bloodstream that protects retinal cells. Because of this the protective layer between the retina and its blood-supplying vessels begins to erode resulting in poor circulation irritation and possible scarring.

When a smoker quits recovery begins almost immediately. The benefits of stopping are monumental – arteries begin to loosen up breathing returns to normal there is no more odour in your hair or on your clothes and perhaps best of all your eyes benefit enormously. By quitting smoking you offer your eyes a chance to see well into the future.

For more information on quitting and its benefits visit:

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