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Tobacco use is the cause of 1 in 10 deaths globally. It is estimated that 50% of all smokers will die from a tobacco-induced disease. Smoking does damage to every part of your body. Your eyes are particularly prone to damage, due to the high amount of blood vessels there.

First let’s look at how smoking may damage your body. Cigarette smoke contains a molecule called carbon monoxide. This molecule binds to your red blood cells, taking the place of oxygen. This makes your blood unable to carry a significant amount of oxygen to parts of your body, causing cell death. Smoking also leads to the constriction of blood vessels. This makes it easier for blockages to form and could move to the eye, causing an occlusion. Smoking also lowers your immune system, making you more susceptible to infection. Smokers also have higher levels of stress than non-smokers, which can also cause problems.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the breakdown of pieces of your retina. It is responsible for tens of millions of cases of blindness each year. Smoking is the number one preventative cause of AMD. Toxins in cigarettes damage the retina. It can lead to central vision loss, and eventual blindness. AMD makes it hard to read, use a screen, drive, or recognize faces.

Toxins can also attack your kidneys. This increases your blood sugar and decreases the effectiveness of insulin. Ultimately, you could develop type 2 diabetes. High blood sugar inhibits blood from flowing properly, causing cell death in the retina. This is known as a diabetic retinopathy.

Cataracts are due to toxins damaging the proteins of the lens. This causes build up that clouds vision. Smoking also inhibits the body’s ability to use enzymes to remove the damaged proteins. Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness globally.

Toxins can also damage the retina, uvea, or cornea. This could lead to uveitis, which is inflammation of the uvea, or glaucoma. High stress caused from smoking can temporarily increase intraocular pressure in the eye.

Smoking during pregnancy has been tied to premature birth, strabismus, neuritis, and retinopathy. Secondhand smoke can also cause a child to develop allergies or conjunctivitis. Cigarette smoke is a known irritant for asthma, allergies and those with dry eye syndrome. Irritation may make it harder to wear contacts.

Smoking can also trigger a rare condition known as Graves’ disease. Among other symptoms, Graves’ causes inflammation, redness, vision loss, and blepharitis. It also causes high intraocular pressure, which causes pain and the eyes to bulge out of their sockets.

The more you smoke, the greater these symptoms become. The best course of action is to always quit smoking as soon as possible.