Heavy smoking can damage your vision, study

The research furthers the understanding of chronic smoking's detrimental effects on spatial and color vision.


Everyone is aware that smoking is indeed bad for the health. Still, some people do it anyway.

Smoking has been proven a cause of numerous diseases such as like asthma, lung disease, stroke, and cancer. Even smoking a cigarette once a day increases the risk of heart stroke: 48% on average over a non-smoker while smoking 20 cigarettes a day doubled the risk.

Now Rutgers University scientists have come up with one more drawback of smoking. In the latest study, they found that smoking more than 20 cigarettes a day can damage your vision.

The study included 71 healthy people aged between 25 and 45- had a normal or corrected-to-normal vision as measured by standard visual acuity charts. Among those, some smoked fewer than 15 cigarettes in their lives and almost 63 people smoked more than 20 cigarettes a day and were diagnosed with tobacco addiction and reported no attempts to stop smoking.

Scientists turned to figure out how participants discriminated contrast levels (subtle differences in shading) and colors while seated 59 inches from a 19-inch cathode-ray tube monitor that displayed stimuli while researchers monitored both eyes simultaneously.

They observed significant changes in the smokers’ red-green and blue-yellow color vision. Based on that they found- consuming substances with neurotoxic chemicals, such as those in cigarettes, may cause overall color vision loss. They also found that heavy smokers had a reduced ability to discriminate contrasts and colors when compared to the non-smokers.

Co-author Steven Silverstein, director of research at Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care said, Cigarette smoke consists of numerous compounds that are harmful to health, and it has been linked to a reduction in the thickness of layers in the brain, and to brain lesions, involving areas such as the frontal lobe, which plays a role in voluntary movement and control of thinking, and a decrease in activity in the area of the brain that processes vision.”

“Previous studies have pointed to long-term smoking as doubling the risk for age-related macular degeneration and as a factor causing lens yellowing and inflammation. Our results indicate that excessive use of cigarettes, or chronic exposure to their compounds, affects visual discrimination, supporting the existence of overall deficits in visual processing with tobacco addiction.”

“Although the research did not give a physiological explanation for the results since nicotine and smoking harm the vascular system, the study suggests they also damage blood vessels and neurons in the retina.”

“The findings also suggest that research into visual processing impairments in other groups of people, such as those with schizophrenia who often smoke heavily, should take into account their smoking rate or independently examine smokers versus non-smokers.”

The research appears in the journal Psychiatry Research.

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