How Smoking Affects Your Eyes

March 09, 2018

How Smoking Affects Your Eyes

Tobacco has negative side effects on just about every part of the body - from the blood vessels, to the brain, heart, and especially the lungs. These adverse health effects are well documented, but little known is how smoking affects the eyes.

Here are 5 ways smoking affects your eyes:

Dry Eyes

Getting dry eyes from time to time might not seem like a big deal - but consistent dry eyes can lead to permanent damage to your vision.

The thin layer of liquid serves as protective layer to keep your eye well lubricated - without it you can no longer easily protect your retina sufficiently.

This is a result in not just smoke being a natural irritant, but also because it specifically hit the glands around the eyes, cutting off tear flow.

In minor cases that results in red eyes and itchiness, but can easily spiral into something much worse. 


Cataracts are clouding of the eye lens resulting from the clumping of ocular proteins. These proteins naturally degenerate with time, with half of all 80 year old either having or had cataracts.

Smoking accelerates this natural process and can cause cataracts in people decades before they would typically happen.

Cataracts reduce your quality of life with blurry vision, faded colors, poor night sight, and excessive glare.

Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of vision loss in Americans over the age of 65. Smoking tobacco can increase this risk by three times - with females especially hard hit.

This is probably a result in smoking causing significant damage to the blood vessels - consistent damage to this can spur the body to produce new vessels in the eye, obscuring vision.

Depending on the form of AMD, the vision loss can be slow and gradual, or acute.


Uveitis is a disease that causes inflammation of the middle layer of the eye called the uvea. There are several types of uveitis that can undermine your eye such as anterior, intermediate, and posterior.

Early stages of uveitis are known for lowered visual acuity, red eyes, and sensitivity to light. As this disease progresses other secondary problems can result - including things like cataracts and glaucoma.

Smokers are more than twice as likely to suffer from uveitis than non-smokers.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a result in spikes in glucose in the blood causing the blood vessels to accumulate sugar. This can damage blood flow to the area - with one of the most sensitive areas being the eye.

Smoking, which already causes significant damage to the blood vessels and the eyes, can be further be exasperated with diabetes - which tobacco smokers have more than twice the chance of developing.

Overall, these eye problems can cause further secondary problems and just reduce your overall standard of life considerably. While tobacco smoke can damage just about every part of the body - it is the eyes that are disproportionately affected.

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