Smoking, a habit that has persisted for centuries, is universally known for its detrimental impact on lung and heart health. However, the dangers of smoking extend far beyond this, posing significant health risks to various other parts of the body. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the adverse effects of smoking affect the blood vessels, eyes, mouth, reproductive organs, bones, bladder, and digestive organs—harming almost every organ and leaving no part of the body untouched. This makes it one of the leading causes of preventable illness in the United States.
To further understand the harmful effects of smoking and the weight of its consequences, below are some of the less-known but equally harmful ways that smoking affects your health.
Headaches experienced by smokers can range from mild discomfort to severe and debilitating pain. This symptom is attributable to various factors. Primarily, nicotine can cause headaches due to its vasoconstrictive effects, which narrows the blood vessels and results in reduced blood flood that can trigger headaches. Similarly, carbon monoxide also reduces the oxygen-carrying capacity of blood, leading to a lack of oxygen supply in the brain and causing headaches.
Continuous exposure to cigarette smoke can also result in chronic inflammation in the respiratory system, which builds up mucus and causes intense discomfort and headaches. Moreover, smoking is known to impair the immune system, making smokers more susceptible to infections and tension headaches.
Eye problems caused by smoking can largely impact a person’s quality of life. One of its most significant effects is the increased risk of developing cataracts. Components of tobacco smoke, such as nicotine and cyanide, have been found to accumulate in the eye lens, impairing its function and promoting cataract formation.
Another eye problem associated with smoking is macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss as it affects the central area of the retina called the macula. Tar and carbon monoxide restrict blood flow to the macula, leading to its gradual degeneration and loss of central vision. In addition, smoking is shown to disrupt the production and composition of tears, potentially leading to dry eye syndrome that can also cause mild vision loss or blindness.
Sleep issues arise among smokers since nicotine is a stimulant that speeds up heart rate, increases blood pressure, and releases adrenaline. These effects can make it challenging for smokers to fall asleep, causing disrupted sleep patterns, which eventually lead to insomnia. It also causes difficulty concentrating, irritability, and an increased risk of depression and anxiety, as lack of sleep negatively impacts both physical and mental health. In the same way, nicotine withdrawal can also cause frequent awakenings throughout the night.
Furthermore, smoking contributes to the development and aggravation of sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by shallow breaths during sleep. This is due to cigarette chemicals causing inflammation and increasing the risk of airway obstruction.
Fertility problems have a higher risk of developing in both men and women who smoke. In men, smoking is known to reduce sperm count, impairing the chances of conception. Smoking also hampers blood circulation in almost all areas of the body, including the genitals. This can lead to erectile dysfunction, which further complicates the ability to conceive.
In the same vein, smoking also brings several adverse effects to women, as it can damage the fallopian tubes and hinder the implantation of a fertilized egg. It is important to note that smoking can also harm the unborn child during pregnancy, increasing the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, and various developmental problems for the child. In one of the worst-case scenarios, smoking can lead to ectopic pregnancy, wherein a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus. This can be life-threatening for the mother, as it can lead to a ruptured fallopian tube and major internal bleeding.