Smoking and Eye Health: What Smoking Can Do to Your Eyes

Date: 08/10/18

Are you a smoker experiencing vision problems or do you have a loved one who smokes and has eye issues? That smoking habit may be having a negative effect on eyesight.

There are many documented health benefits to kicking cigarettes for good, and protecting your eye health is one of them.

Smoking can cause a variety of vision problems, ranging from minor annoyances to sight-threatening conditions. Here is more about the impact smoking may have on your vision:

Smoking Can Cause Dry Eyes

Smokers are twice as likely to have dry eyes as non-smokers. Dry eye is caused by insufficient tear production on the eye surface. When this happens, our eyes are not properly lubricated. Symptoms of dry eye include redness, itchiness and foreign body sensation. Tobacco smoke is an eye irritant that can worsen dry eye, and dry eye is more likely to occur in smokers to wear contacts.

Diabetic Retinopathy and Smoking

People who smoke have a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who do not smoke. Type 2 diabetes lead to problems with vision.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of vision loss for diabetics and a leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States.

Smoking and Cataracts

Even casual smokers have about twice as much risk for developing cataracts as non-smokers. Heavy smokers have a risk level three times that of a non-smoker.

If you smoke, watch out for blurry vision, faded colors and an increased sensitivity to glare. If any of these symptoms occur, see your eyecare professional immediately.

Smoking and Macular Degeneration

Smoking has been linked to macular degeneration because toxins interfere with blood flow to the retina. Like cataracts, the risk level for macular degeneration increases with the amount that is smoked. Individuals exposed to second-hand smoke on a regular basis may also be at risk.

Glaucoma and Smoking

Smoking is linked to high blood pressure, cataracts and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for developing glaucoma.

Preventing Smoking-Related Eye Problems

The best way to prevent damage to your eyes caused by smioking is to quit smoking. For some conditions like dry eye, the positive effects of quitting smoking on your eyes can occur almost instantly. When the time comes to quit smoking, discuss a cessation plan with a medical professional.

Even if your vision is fine now, smokers - and everyone - should be mindful of their eye health and regularly have eye exams.