From Tobacco Info No. 10 -
Summary - Search - Homepage - Free subscription
Risk of blindness from smoking highlighted by graphic image of eyes pried open
By Mel Lefebvre
The new Canadian graphic image on tobacco products of an eye pried open by metal prongs is a grim warning that smoking can cause a wide variety of vision effects, including macular degeneration, cataracts, and even blindness.
The Canadian Association of Optometrists recognizes the following health effects on vision related to tobacco use:
Increased risk of macular degeneration, something more typically seen as people age, which can lead to blindness.
Cataracts (the milky substance that covers the seeing portion of the eye) develops at a faster rate in smokers.
The children of mothers who smoked while pregnant show a higher rate of eye defects, like esotropia (crossed eyes) and vision impairment.
Reduced night vision. Nicotine constricts the blood vessels in the eye, reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to ocular tissues, which decreases the ability of the eye to adapt quickly in changing light conditions. It also takes longer to regain regular vision in the light for a smoker than for a non-smoker.
Nicotine decreases the production of tears, causing dry eyes. A smoker’s exposure to toxic airborne particles in cigarette smoke causes extra irritation because normal eye lubrication can’t flush away the concentration of particles that comes from smoking. This can also lead to discomfort with contact lenses.
Increased development of infections and inflammation in the cornea, which can cause scarring and vision loss.
Smokers can also suffer from eye-related complications and thyroid eye, which is also referred to as Grave’s disease. Some of the symptoms are protrusion of the eyeball, double vision, optic nerve disease and inflammation.
Smoking reduces the flow of oxygen to the eye’s blood vessels and impacts retinal cells, which can diminish peripheral vision and make the field of vision narrower.
A higher risk of retinal vein occlusion, where a vein carrying blood to the eye is blocked, which can lead to partial or full blindness.
In general, smoking has been found to raise the pressure in the eye, and can be a risk factor in the development of glaucoma, which can gradually reduce one’s vision.
Tobacco Amblyopia is the loss of sharpness of vision, and the reduced ability to tell the difference between colours, which can be made worse by other poor lifestyle choices, like bad diet, and too much alcohol.
In short, the health warning of an eye being held open by wires provides smokers with a graphic reminder that in addition to the mortal risks associated with smoking, impaired eyesight should be added to the list of health concerns to consider before lighting up.