Smoking Can Lead to Vision Loss

Smoking has long been known to cause lung cancer and heart disease, but it also can lead to vision loss.  

How Does Smoking Affect Your Eye Health?

Smoking causes changes in the eyes that can lead to eye disease.  

If you smoke:

Studies show smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and dry eye disease.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): AMD is an eye disease that can progressively destroy the macula, the center portion of the retina, impairing central vision. This can impair the ability to see straight ahead clearly and make it difficult to read, drive and see faces. Smokers are more likely to develop AMD up to 10 years earlier than those who have never smoked. It is also likely to progress faster and be less responsive to treatments.

Cataracts: A cataract is a clouding of the eye’s naturally clear lens. It typically gets worse as we get older but in smokers, it can get worse at a faster rate. Heavy smokers (15 cigarettes per day or more) have up to three times the risk of cataracts as nonsmokers.

Glaucoma:  Glaucoma causes a gradual breakdown of the optic nerve in your eye that sends visual information to the brain. As the nerve gets damaged you slowly lose vision, typically beginning with peripheral vision. There is a strong link between smoking and high blood pressure, cataracts, and diabetes, all of which are risk factors for glaucoma.   

Diabetic Retinopathy: Diabetic retinopathy is a common eye complication of diabetes. It affects the tiny blood vessels in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue in the back of the eye). Retinal blood vessels can break down, leak, or become blocked and serious sight-threatening damage can occur. Smoking can increase your chances of getting diabetes.  

Dry Eye Disease: Dry eye disease is a result of the eye failing to produce the sufficient volume or quality of tears to effectively lubricate the eye surface.  Symptoms include a gritty feeling, redness, stinging, burning, and general eye discomfort. As a known eye irritant, smoke breaks down the lipid layer of the tear film, leading to dry eye symptoms.  

How Can You Prevent Vision Loss Related to Smoking?

If you smoke, stop. Search for a smoking cessation program at your local hospital. Quitting will lower your risk of vision loss. Quitting smoking is something within your control that may help save your sight. Other healthy habits may also protect your eyes:

Benefits of Smoking Cessation

Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Take the first step today to quit smoking and reduce your risk of vision loss. 

Guy Brignola, OD Guy Brignola, OD Guy Brignola, OD, is a board-certified optometrist treating patients in and around Trappe, Blue Bell, and North Wales, Pennsylvania, at Ophthalmology Physicians & Surgeons, PC. He has been practicing as an optometrist in the Philadelphia area for nearly 20 years, bringing extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of eye disease, comprehensive eye exams, contact lenses, preoperative evaluations, and post-operative care to the practice.

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