Are you a smoker? Looking for a reason to quit? Read on about the effects of smoking on the eye . . . .

Although not as popular as years ago, smoking is still very prevalent in the United States. According the the CDC, approximately 36.5 million adults in the United States currently smoke cigarettes.

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Not only does it increase your risk for developing cardiovascular disease, stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes and birth defects, it also has a number of harmful effects on your eyes.
Cigarettes contain over 4,000 harmful compounds including nicotine, carbon monoxide, tar and numerous heavy metals.

Contact Lens wear and smoking
Smoking has been shown to be correlated with increase risk of infection due to contact lens contamination from the harmful compounds in cigarettes. Additionally, due to increased incidence of dry eye or ocular surface disease, contact lens comfort is decreased amongst smokers.

Dry eye are smoking
Smokers have approximately 2x increased risk of dry eye compared to non-smokers. Clinically, this is seen in all three layers of the tear film.
– The inner layer, the mucin layer made up of goblet cells, which are responsible for tears sticking to the eye, are decreased in density in smokers.
– The middle layer, the aqueous layer, which makes up the majority of the tear film, has been shown to over-produce which causes increased tearing in smokers. This decreases the lysozme (enzyme that attacks the wall of bacteria) concentration and therefore decreases the immune response to bacteria.
– The outer layer, the lipid layer, which is responsible for evaporation of the tear film shows reduced tear break-up times (faster evaporation time) due to a decreased quality.

Cataracts and smoking
Smokers have approximately 2x increase risk of developing cataracts (clouding of the natural lens of the eye).

Uveitis and smoking
Studies have shown that smokers are approximately 2x increase risk of uveitis (inflammation in the eye) than non-smokers.

Thyroid eye disease and smoking
Smoking has shown to increase the risk of Grave’s disease (thyroid eye disease) by 2x. Additionally, smoking has shown decreased efficacy of thyroid treatment in smokers vs. non-smokers.

Macular degeneration and smoking
Smoking is very detrimental to macular degeneration. It is one of the main risk factors for AMD (macular degeneration) and studies have shown a 3x increased risk of macular degeneration in smokers vs. non-smokers. Smokers have a decreased amount of antioxidants which are responsible for prevention of cell damage/death related to AMD.

Diabetes and smoking
Smoking causes vascular damage by hardening the arteries. The rate of diabetic retinopathy (damage to the eye from diabetes from leaky blood vessles) is 3x increased in smokers vs. non-smokers.

Our practicioners here at Metrolina Eye Associates are extremely knowledgeable with these diseases and how smoking affects the eye. Additionally, various tests can be done in office to determine your risk of developing these diseases. 

If you have any of these diseases, and especially if you are a smoker, it is very important to have regular eye examinations. Additionally, we would be happy to discuss cessation of smoking with you and help you to get started on your journey to a healthier life.

To talk about your eye health and the effect smoking has on it, please contact one of our offices to schedule an appointment.