The World Health Organization reports that tobacco kills more than seven million individuals each year, which comprises approximately one out of every ten deaths for adults. There is a large amount of documentation about the relationship between smoking and harm caused to a person’s heart or lungs. There are also some significant ways that smoking can seriously harm a person’s vision by irritating their eyes. People are advised to quit smoking to avoid vision damage.
The manner in which smoking harms a person’s body is somewhat complicated. In short, the human body creates hydrogen cyanide, which is a toxin that damages various parts of the eye including the lens, ocular tissue, optic nerve, and retina. This article will examine some of the ways in which smoking impairs a person’s sight.
The Deadliest Toxins Found in Cigarettes
The Food and Drug Administration has published a list of the more than 100 deadly substances contained in cigarettes. They include acetone, ammonia, arsenic, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, and uranium. Some of the other deadly toxins contained in cigarettes that specifically result in a decrease in the quality of a person’s vision include the following:
- Benzene. Benzene is a colorless, flammable liquid with a sweet odor that is created by smoking. Side effects of the toxin include vision impairment.
- Carbon Monoxide. This chemical deprives the human body of oxygen, which results in many complicated health issues, including vision loss.
- Hydrogen Cyanide. This toxin is produced due to a chemical reaction when tobacco burns. Hydrogen cyanide limits development in nearly all cells in the human body, including a person’s optic cells.
Smoking as an Eye Irritant
Non-smokers often complain that tobacco smoke irritates their eyes. In these situations, tobacco irritates the conjunctiva of the eye, which is the clear, thin membrane that covers the white part of a person’s eye. The eyes of smokers are also at risk of being harmed in a similar way. While not fatal, this conjunctiva irritation can create significant medical obstacles for a person, whether they smoke or not.
Smoking Can Cause Dry Eye
Baskent University released a comprehensive study about the damaging effects of cigarette smoke on a person’s ocular surface. This study established that smoking has a deteriorating effect on the lipid layer of a person’s eye. This layer is the oily layer of a person’s eye which is responsible for maintaining the lubricating tear film. When this layer becomes reduced, a person experiences dry eye, which causes tears from the person’s tear ducts to evoke a burning or stinging sensation.
Smoking Creates a Greater Risk of Cataracts
Cataracts involve the lens in a person’s eye thickening and becoming less transparent and flexible.The lens becomes cloudy and results in vision problems. Tobacco smoke reacts with substances in a person’s body and ultimately damages the body’s cells increasing the rate at which cataracts are caused. Cataracts frequently involve changes in vision including blurring, incorrect color perception, poor night vision, and reduced vision.
Other Diseases Caused by Smoking
Two of the other diseases caused by smoking include the following:
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration. This medical condition starts with individuals losing central vision, which makes it difficult to read and distinguish fine details. As time progresses, people lose significantly larger amounts of vision. The condition can be either dry or wet in nature. In the dry form of the condition, fatty deposits accumulate under light-sensing cells that are located in the back of a person’s eye. In the wet form of the illness, blood vessels that are located under the retina break open. While less common than the dry form, the wet version of age-related macular degeneration is often much more harmful.
- Diabetic Retinopathy. This illness is a common complication associated with diabetes and affects the small blood vessels located in the retina of the eye. For some individuals with diabetic retinopathy, very damaging medical complications can occur when new blood vessels grow on the surface of the eye’s retina.
Cigarette Smoke Issues for Women
Second hand exposure to cigarette smoking is an irritant that causes many uncomfortable situations for everyone — but especially for women, most noticeably postmenopausal women. Vision problems due to smoke exposure are common among women of this age group.
Smoking exposure can prove particularly harmful for women in other ways. For example, Fuchs’ dystrophy is a cornea-related disease caused by smoking that is 35 percent more common in women than in men. When women smoke during pregnancy, children are more likely to experience fetal exposure, which is in many cases associated with increased vision difficulties in newborns.
Options for Reducing Harmed by Exposure to Cigarette Smoke
Cigarette smoke is just one of the many types of irritants that can harm a person’s vision. While not exactly an allergen, cigarette smoke can be a huge problem for some people. Anyone who is in the path of these chemicals is at risk of being exposed and harmed by cigarette smoke. Your eyes are exposed to a large number of irritants. Take care of them by cleansing your eyelids with a product like Cliradex Towelettes or Cliradex Light Foam. These products contain ingredients that are known to greatly lessen the severity of allergic responses, and provide comfort to eyes that have been irritated by cigarette smoke.