Smoking and Glaucoma

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published April 12, 2021

We all know smoking impacts our general health, but did you know it can also affect the eyes? 

More than 1 billion people worldwide smoke cigarettes, even though it is known to have serious consequences for our general health.

While most people are aware that smoking can cause pulmonary disease and cancer, far fewer realize that smoking can harm our eyes as well.

Smoking can increase the risk of developing several sight-threatening eye diseases.

Contact an eye doctor near you who can diagnose and manage eye conditions and diseases that may be a result of smoking.

How is glaucoma related to smoking?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases primarily caused by increased pressure inside the eye. The increase is usually due to the buildup of excess fluid inside the eye.

The major concern with the increased pressure is the damage it causes to the optic nerve, which is the only connection between the eye and the brain.

The increase in eye pressure leads to glaucoma, a sight threatening condition, resulting in permanent ‘tunnel vision’ and eventually blindness.

A retrospective study published in 2018, found that the more packs of cigarettes regular smokers smoked, among regular smokers, the greater their odds are of developing glaucoma.

The study found that the retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) is significantly affected by smoking. The RNFL is responsible for collecting visual data from the eye’s retinal nerves, which direct it to the optic nerve, taking the visual signals to the brain.

Smokers in the study had a significantly thinner RNFL than non-smokers. A thinning RNFL is a symptom associated with glaucoma as well as some other eye conditions.

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you who can diagnose and treat glaucoma so that you can prevent vision loss.

Other eye conditions linked to smoking

Glaucoma isn’t the only eye condition linked to smoking. There are other serious eye conditions as well.

Cataracts

Cataracts cause the eye’s lens to become cloudy, leading to blurry vision. Once cataracts develop, they grow progressively worse and must be surgically removed to eliminate the cloudiness and restore vision.

Smokers are  at double the risk of developing cataracts, compared to non-smokers.

Age-related macular degeneration

Another eye condition that smokers are at a high risk of developing is age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Smokers are 3 times more likely to develop AMD, which causes blind spots in the central vision. 

People with macular generation can find it difficult to watch TV, read a book, drive and recognize faces.  AMD sometimes leads to total blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy and dry eye syndrome are among other eye conditions that smokers are at a higher risk of developing.

Eye Exams are Essential

Regular eye examinations are vital to catch any eye disease and conditions early, these will allow your eye doctor to take action and ensure you maintain good eye health.

One of the best courses of action that any smoker can take is to quit smoking. This will not only improve their general health but their eye health as well.

Schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you. If any eye problems are found, they will recommend the best treatment options for each type of eye condition, including glaucoma, allowing you to enjoy your clear vision.