Smoking and Eye Health

Smoking is well known for causing a wide range of health problems, from high blood pressure and heart disease to lung cancer. However, many people are unaware of the effect that this common habit can have on the health of their eyes.

Smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing a variety of different eye diseases, some of which can lead to permanent vision loss. Today, we will discuss some of the eye diseases caused by smoking.

Age-related Macular Degeneration

Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a leading cause of vision loss in the United States and is caused by the deterioration of the cells of a part of the retina called the macula, which is responsible for central vision, color, and fine detail. Studies suggest that smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Even if you just live with smokers, you could be doubling your risk of macular degeneration. Although it doesn’t cause total blindness, it can severely impair your vision – enough to make many day-to-day tasks impossible. There’s also no cure.

smoking and eye health


Cataracts can affect anyone at any age, but they are most commonly associated with older people. They occur when changes to the proteins found in the natural lens of the eye start to clump together, causing opaque clouds that limit your vision. They can affect one or both eyes and can develop at different rates. People with cataracts will find that their vision gets progressively worse until they can no longer see well at all. Fortunately, there is a treatment that involves replacing the natural clouded lens with an artificial alternative. Research has found that people who smoke more than 15 cigarettes per day could be up to three times more likely to develop cataracts than non-smokers.


Glaucoma is the term used to describe damage to the optic nerve that is caused by an accumulation of pressure inside the eye. The optic nerve is responsible for sending messages between the eye and brain, so when it becomes damaged, it can substantially affect your vision. Glaucoma is progressive and usually develops very slowly. In most cases, it is detected at routine eye exams rather than as a result of your symptoms. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between smoking and high blood pressure, both of which are risk factors for glaucoma development. Any vision loss as a result of glaucoma is permanent, so it is essential that it is detected and treated early – and prevented if possible.

Dry eyes

Dry eyes are a very common eye problem. Most people will experience them at some point during their lifetime, and it usually resolves itself fairly quickly. However, a small percentage of people will suffer from chronic dry eyes. You are twice as likely to have chronic dry eye if you smoke, and as a result, will experience symptoms like itching, irritation, redness, and soreness that make some day-to-day visual activities harder than they should be. There are various treatments that can alleviate dry eye, but avoiding smoking will reduce your risk.

If you would like more information about your eye health, don’t hesitate to contact our knowledgeable eye care team at 718-565-2020.