How Smoking Affects Vision

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We all know that smoking has a lot of negative consequences when it comes to health. It’s a risk factor for heart disease, lung cancer, and all kinds of other medical problems. One that may surprise you, though, is the impact that smoking could have on your aging relative’s eyes.

New Study Looks at How Heavy Smoking Harms Vision

The study involved 134 people between the ages of 25 and 45. 71 of them had smoked 15 or fewer cigarettes over the course of their lives. The other 63 of them smoked 20 or more cigarettes each day. They all had normal vision or vision that was corrected to normal. However, the people in the heavy smokers group had changes in the way they saw colors. They also had trouble distinguishing between colors and seeing contrast.

The researchers believe the changes in vision have to do with the way cigarettes impact the brain. Smoking has been associated with thinning layers in the brain and lesions that occur in the parts of the brain that process what people see. In addition, the nicotine in cigarettes is known to harm blood vessels, including the ones that feed the retina.

Smoking Increases Risk of Eye Conditions

Smoking makes the development of several eye conditions more likely. It is a risk factor for the following eye diseases:

  • Cataracts: Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye. They are the number one cause of blindness worldwide. Half of all people will develop cataracts by the time they turn 80. Studies show that smoking doubles the risk.
  • Macular Degeneration: Macular degeneration damages the retina, causing blind spots in vision and interferes with central vision. Smoking makes it three times more likely for a person to get macular degeneration.
  • Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the retina, which can lead to poor vision or blindness. Smoking makes getting diabetes twice as likely, which in turn increases the chances of getting diabetic retinopathy.
  • Dry Eyes: Dry eyes happens when the eyes don’t make enough tears or make poor quality tears that don’t provide enough lubrication. Smoking doubles the risk of dry eyes.

If your aging relative smokes, senior care can help them to quit. A senior care provider can drive them to the doctor’s office to discuss medicines and strategies available to quit smoking. Senior care providers can also remind them to use the medicines. In addition, simply having a senior care provider available to offer distractions may keep the older adult from smoking when the urge hits.


If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Loudoun, VA, please contact the caring staff at Assisting Hands today. (703) 982-0050.