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How Smoking Can Affect Your Eyes And Your Vision

by Beth Griffiths on 12th May 2017

The Effects of Smoking on Your Eyesight

The links between cigarettes and cancer are well-known, but did you know that smoking can also affect your eyes? Here are just some of the eyesight complications associated with cigarettes.

Dry Eye Syndrome

If your tear ducts are not secreting enough tears to lubricate and clean your eyes, you could develop a condition known as dry eye syndrome – symptoms of which include redness and itchiness.

Tobacco smoke contains a cocktail of chemicals known to irritate our eyes, whether you're a regular or passive smoker.

Statistically speaking, a population-based study published in the BJO (British Journal of Ophthalmology) showed that the prevalence of dry eye symptoms was approximately 1.5 times greater for cigarette smokers.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

AMD is a condition that affects the retinas, causing impaired central vision and permanent loss of sight. A tell-tale symptom is the development of “blind spots.”

Our eyes are supplied with oxygen via blood vessels, but smoking causes these vessels to narrow, ultimately restricting the flow of blood and damaging the retinal cells.

Statistically speaking, smokers are twice as likely to suffer from this condition, according to the results of a 2004 British study published in the BJO.


A cataract refers to the clouding of the lens within the eye. Many people around the world suffer from this condition, which can lead to blindness.

Tobacco smoke is known to be a direct cause of cataracts as it contains free radicals that damage lens fibre membranes and proteins.

A study published in 2014 on PubMed showed that men who quit smoking (at least 15 cigarettes a day) reduced their risk of cataract extraction from 42% to 21%.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is indirectly linked to smoking and causes damage to the retinas, leading to eventual loss of vision.

This disease is a complication of diabetes, which smoking is a known risk factor for. Various studies have put forward links as to why this is the case, including the role smoking has in triggering insulin resistance.

Smokers are at a greater risk of developing type-2 diabetes (30-40%) in comparison to non-smokers, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

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