The health risks associated with smoking are well documented and are now widely known. Smoking tobacco is the single most preventable cause of death and disease in the world. According to the United States Surgeon General, quitting smoking is the single most important step a smoker can take to improve the length and quality of his or her life.

Smoking adversely affects virtually every organ system in the human body, not just the lungs. These risks are illuminated by the following facts:

Smoking, Dry Eye and Contact Lenses: Smoking can affect the skin around the eyes, the environment in which the eyes function, and the tissues on the eye’s surface. Smoke is a drying agent that increases evaporation of the eye’s natural moisture which can lead to discomfort and dry eye symptoms, especially when contact lenses are worn.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Macular degeneration is a condition that causes the center of your vision to blur while the side or peripheral vision remains unaffected. It is generally related to the aging process. High-risk groups include smokers and people who have had extensive UV exposure.

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetes and its complications can affect many parts of the eye. Diabetic retinopathy is the swelling and damage to the blood vessels of the retina related to diabetes that can result in blood leakage and other changes. Several factors that increase the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy include smoking, high blood pressure, drinking alcohol and pregnancy.

Cataracts: Cataracts are the result of aging changes that occur within the eye that cloud the lens. This may be due to aging, genetics, an injury, or a disease. Cataracts usually develop in both eyes, but often at different rates. Smoking, sun exposure, or the use of certain medications are also risk factors for the development of cataracts.

Pregnancy and Infant Eye Disease: Studies have found that smoking during pregnancy is associated with premature births and higher rates of strabismus (crossed eyes), refractive errors, retinal problems, and optic nerve problems.

Smoking and Blindness: Most smokers are not aware that their tobacco use is a preventable cause of blindness. Despite the important role eye doctors can have impacting patient health choices; their voice has been largely silent in the development of tobacco cessation practice guidelines and health promotion strategies.

Some things to think about:

  • Cigarettes currently cause approximately 20% of all deaths in the U.S.
  • Approximately 50 million Americans smoke.
  • Each year, about 3 million people worldwide die from smoking, with about one-third coming from developing countries.

If you are interested in joining the ranks of former smokers, please visit the following websites for more information on how you can get help: