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How Smoking Damages Your Eyes & Vision

How Smoking Damages Your Eyes & Vision 

If you’re a smoker, you may already know how cigarettes, cigars, and pipes can damage your lungs and raise your chances of getting serious illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

But did you know that smoking can also hurt your eyesight and lead to vision loss? 

Numerous studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and Dry Eye Syndrome.

For people with diabetes, smoking could triple or quadruple the retinopathy progression rate of diabetic complications. In fact, the more you smoke, the higher your risk of vision loss and eye damage. 

Smoking is so harmful for human vision that it can even affect unborn babies. Smoking while pregnant can lead to vision problems due to higher risks of bacterial meningitis and premature birth. 

To make sure your eyesight stays good for many years it is best to give up smoking and build a healthy lifestyle based around nutritious foods and regular activity. 

Doing so can significantly lower your risk of losing your vision and causing further damage to your eyes.  

If you’re currently a smoker it is even more important for you to visit your ophthalmologist so they can take a look at your eyes and catch any problems from developing further. 

How Smoking Damages the Eyes

Eye Disease

Smoking causes the body’s blood vessels to narrow (vasoconstriction), making it harder for the eyes to receive enough blood. It also creates free radicals in the body that damage cells and the body’s supply of antioxidants.

Additionally, cigarette smoke has chemicals and oxidants that can damage the retina as they move through the bloodstream. Retinal cells get irritated by smoke, which causes an immune response and harmful inflammation in the body. 

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) and Smoking

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a disease which starts by damaging your central vision. This makes it harder to see things clearly and do normal activities such as driving, reading, and or see small details. 

AMD can be either “dry” or “wet” depending on which type you have. AMD typically starts off as the dry type, where fatty deposits form under the light-sensing cells in the back of the eye. 

However, dry AMD can progress into a more serious wet form in which small blood vessels under the retina leak or break. If left untreated, wet AMD can lead to rapid vision loss. 

Unfortunately, people who smoke are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than nonsmokers. Even people who live with smokers have twice the risk of people living with non-smokers!   

Although medicine or surgery can prevent AMD from worsening there is currently no cure for this disease. 

Cataracts and Smoking

smoking and the eyes

Cataracts occur when the transparent lenses of the eye get cloudy, causing vision to become blurry and foggy. 

Unfortunately, over 20 million Americans suffer from cataracts and that number is only expected to go up in the future. Cataracts are the leading cause for vision problems around the world and impact aging populations especially hard.  

Depending on how much they smoke, smokers have two to three times the risk of developing cataracts when compared to non-smokers. 

Doctors believe smoking may alter the lenses of the eye by oxidation, thereby increasing the risk of cataracts. They are also concerned about how heavy metals found in cigarettes may collect in eye lenses. 

Smoking and Dry Eyes

Dry eye

Dry eye syndrome happens when your tears can’t provide enough lubrication for your eyes. This can cause your eyes to become irritated, itchy, and scratchy.  

With thousands of harmful chemicals, smoking is definitely a trigger for dry eye. In fact, smokers are twice as likely to experience dry eye than non-smokers. Just being around smokers can cause dry eye in some people that are sensitive to irritants. 

Our eyes coat themselves with protective tears with every blink to keep out harmful elements. Unfortunately, cigarette smoke can destroy this vital shield and even damage the quality of tears your body produces. 

All of this leads to more eye irritations and potential damage to the eyes delicate blood vessels.


As you can see, smoking is all around just terrible for your eyes. It can cause many different eye diseases that could end in vision loss if left untreated. 

Macular degeneration, cataracts, and dry eyes are just a few of the many risks smokers face to their vision. Smoking can also lead to problems with the optic nerve, graves’ disease, and uveitis. 

To protect your eyes from all these potential problems, it is vital to quit smoking. To get started, see your doctor and let them know of your concerns. They can help guide you on the best way to leave smoking in the past. 

To learn more about how Diabetic Eye Clinic can help you, please contact us by clicking here

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