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Smoke Gets In Your Eyes!

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/22/2006 | Self Improvement
It was back in 1959 when the group the Platters sang their number one hit "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes". Smoking was socially acceptable then and most of us didn't have a clue that it would produce more preventable deaths than most other causes in modern history.

Fast forward to the 21st Century - We are hammered daily by warnings on the health related risks of smoking. Stories and adverts abound about the risk of lung cancer, stroke and heart disease. One smoking related health issue however is frequently overlooked: its serious affects on vision and eye health.

Tobacco smoke is composed of around 4,000 compounds, most of which are toxic. When these toxins waft around in the air many of them irritate the conjunctiva, the delicate film covering the white of the eye. These toxic chemicals irritate the nerve endings in the conjunctiva, drying it out and making your eyes feel like they are stinging and burning. Even confirmed non-smokers have had to deal with the irritation of second hand smoke at a party or club at one time or another. Your eyes quickly become red and dry. Who can forget the gritty irritable eyes and the dry nose and throat from just a few minutes exposure?

It's even worse if you wear contact lenses. The delicate environment at the front of the eye is very sensitive. As smoking quickly dries the eyes, contact lens wear becomes more irritating and dangerous. A dry, rough contact lens can compromise the surface of the cornea, the clear window at the front of the eye, increasing the risk of an eye infection. A bacterial infection, contact lens related microbial keratitis, can be a particularly nasty risk to your eyesight.

Chronic irritation of the outside of the eye from smoking can easily cause long term damage. Expert studies show that smokers are 82 per cent more likely to suffer from dry eye. Quitting helps but even former smokers have a 22 percent higher incidence of dry eye than non-smokers. Many smokers might think they can cope with a bit of eye irritation, but they don't realize that the real danger to their vision lurks inside.

Other than your brain, the eye is one of the most oxygen hungry organs in the body. To work properly, it needs a continuous flow of oxygen and nutrients. Smoking gradually reduces the blood supply the eye needs by narrowing the blood vessels and thickening the blood. As the eye becomes starved of vital oxygen and nutrients, the risk to vision quickly increases.

Two of the worlds leading causes of severe visual impairment and blindness are cataract and age related macular degeneration (AMD). Although advancing age is the main factor in both diseases, smokers develop both cataract and AMD earlier and more severely than non-smokers.

Starving the eye of oxygen also creates other hazards. Smoking can impair your night vision, risking your own and other people's safety on the road at night. Glaucoma, another degenerative disease of the eye, is typically affected by poor blood supply to the optic nerve. This disease can cost you most of your vision without you noticing a thing wrong.

Even if a smoker doesn't care about their own vision, they need to spare a thought for their children's vision. The dangerous affects of smoking can be transmitted through the placenta to an unborn child. Children of smoking mothers are prone to developing strabismus. This shows up as an eye that turns inward shortly after birth. In many cases prompt surgery is the only solution to avoid a permanent turned eye and impaired vision.

The link between smoking and a number of serious eye conditions is now well known and can no longer be ignored. The old Platter's hit of 1959 is now very true - Smoke literally does get "In Your Eyes".