In current times, everyone is aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes. We see the warning labels on all of the packaging and hear the statistics on the likelihood of smokers contracting cancer. We know smoking causes the following cancers: larynx, lung, mouth, oesophagus, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, cervix, throat and acute myeloid leukaemia. There are also many other conditions which can be caused by smoking including heart disease, strokes, aging skin, yellow teeth, bad breath and so many more. What is not spoken about often enough, is the effect smoking has on our eyes.
There are several eye disorders which can be caused directly through the smoking of cigarettes. These include eye irritation, dry eyes, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, macular degeneration, optic neuropathy and thyroid eye disease. All of these conditions can cause long term damage and smokers need to be aware of their detrimental effects.
Constant exposure to harmful tobacco smoke causes inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear, thin membrane which covers the white part of the eye as well as the membranes on the inner parts of the eyelids. The resulting condition is known as conjunctivitis. This is an extremely irritating and infectious condition.
Tobacco smoke can have an abating effect on the lipid layer, the oily layer of the tear film directly responsible for lubricating and stopping the evaporation of aqueous tears. As this important layer is reduced, the irritableness and increase in itchiness of the eyes will worsen.
Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease. It can result in blindness for many adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. These blood vessels carry oxygen to the retina itself. When one is a smoker, nicotine and carbon monoxide block the supply of oxygen and accelerates the development of this condition.
When someone suffers from cataracts, cloudy areas develop on the eye’s lens, leading to vision impairment. If untreated, this can lead to blindness until the cataracts are surgically removed. Smoking has now been proven to increase ones’ chances of developing cataracts.
The macula is an oval-shaped pigmented area near the centre of the retina. It is responsible for allowing us to perform daily tasks such as reading and driving. The reduction in blood to the macula will result in a reduction of visual ability. The intake of tobacco smoke also creates oxidative damage in the retina thereby damaging one’s central vision.
Optic Neuropathy is caused by the deterioration or damage of the myelin protective sheath which surrounds the optic nerve. This causes inflammation of the nerve which is imperative for good vision. Smoking reduces the blood flow around the body as it hardens and clogs the arteries. The resulting lack of blood to the optic nerve can result in sudden sight loss and even blindness.
This disease is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmunity is the system of immune responses of an organism against its own cells and tissues. In this case, the thyroid gland becomes overactive, and produces an excess of the thyroid hormone, causing the soft tissues and muscles surrounding the eyes to inflame and swell. According to research, smoking hastens the process for anyone susceptible to thyroid eye disease. Treatments for this disease have also proven to be far more effective for non-smokers.
By quitting smoking today, one can greatly reduce their chances of suffering from these afflictions. In many cases, much of the damage caused by smoking can be repaired naturally by the body over time. As already stated, treatments also have a greater chance of being affective for non-smokers. The eyes are needed for so many reasons in our day to day lives. From performing our work duties to enjoying our children playing. Every one of them is reason enough to stop smoking. Love your eyes, put down the tobacco.
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