WHEN SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES: Smoking and Your Eyesight


Smoking is a habit which carries many dangers. Most people know that smoking can cause lung cancer and heart disease, but smoking actually causes damage to every organ in the body including the eyes.  Studies show that smoking increases the risk of developing many serious eye conditions such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), and glaucoma- all of which pose a significant threat to your eyesight.

The Cataract Connection:

Smokers are twice as likely to develop cataracts, which are the world’s leading cause of blindness. Luckily, cataracts can be reversed by surgery so any loss of vision they cause is usually temporary, but such vision loss includes faded color perception, decreased night vision, blurred or double vision and light sensitivity.  Unfortunately, some sight-threatening conditions caused by smoking can be permanent.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD):

Smokers are three times as likely to develop Age Related Macular Degeneration.  And, not only do they have an increased risk of developing AMD, they are more likely to get it earlier in life. Vision loss due to Macular Degeneration is progressive and permanent. The macula is the area in the retina which gives us our sharpest and most detailed vision. For patients with AMD, the macula deteriorates over time resulting in permanent blindness.

Can’t “Sugarcoat” these facts:

Smoking increases the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes by as much as 40%.  Additionally, it makes people more vulnerable to diabetes related eye conditions. Diabetic Retinopathy occurs when weakened blood vessels at the back of the eye start to leak blood into the field of vision and decrease the amount of oxygen to the retina. This problem will get progressively worse over time, especially when diabetes is not well controlled.

Non Smokers aren’t safe either:

Obviously smokers will be affected the most, but don’t forget that secondhand smoke is dangerous too. Non-smokers who are frequently exposed to secondhand smoke are at greater risk for lung cancer, heart disease, and stroke. Children who live with smokers will have more frequent pneumonia, ear infections, bronchitis, asthma attacks, and increased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

But vaping is better, right?

According to e-cigarette or vaping companies vaping is a “safer” alternative to smoking, but that’s just not true. Many of the chemicals in cigarettes which cause an increased risk of these sight-threatening conditions are present in e-cigarette fluids as well. The fact is there is no safe or healthy way to consume tobacco.

Break the Habit Now- or better yet, don’t ever start:

We know that there are other factors involved with many of the eye conditions discussed in this article. There are genetic, environmental or age- related factors which also increase the likelihood of disease, but the risks associated with smoking are preventable. Don’t smoke. Quit if you can- or don’t start in the first place. Don’t expose children to secondhand smoke. Take good care of yourself- eat healthy, stay active, and schedule regular eye exams. If you can’t quit then it is even more important to receive regular eyecare as early detection is crucial to disease management.


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