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Smoking and Eye Health

Updated on April 4, 2018

Most people who smoke know that smoking can cause many different health issues but I don’t think a lot of people realize that smoking can be very harmful to their eyes.

Cigarettes have numerous chemicals in them that irritate the eyes as well as carcinogens and destructive agents that can cause damage to the eyes.

Did you know that smoking can cause blindness? The longer you smoke the higher your risk becomes of losing partial or full vision.

Health Risks To the Eyes From Smoking

  • Damage to the Optic Nerve
  • Cataracts
  • AMD or Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • Vascular Disease

The left optic nerve and the optic tracts.
The left optic nerve and the optic tracts. | Source
Scotoma | Source

Damage to the Optic Nerve

The optic nerve is what sends what we are seeing visually from the retina to the brain. The chemicals in tobacco can cause damage to the eyes optic nerve, which is called toxic optic neuropathy. There are different causes for this, but tobacco is one of the major causes.

How does this affect vision and the eyes?

  • A change in color vision is usually what first occurs and is painless.
  • Bright colors no longer seem as bright as they used to.
  • Blurry vision and dimness.
  • Although rare, blindness can occur.

Glaucoma - is caused by damage to the optic nerve. People that smoke and have high blood pressure or diabetes are at a greater risk of developing glaucoma.

Scotoma - (small growing spot) an alteration in the field of vision can develop.

Optic Neuropathy - When anyone smokes the blood flow throughout the entire body decreases .... this too can damage the optic nerve.

Magnified view of cataract
Magnified view of cataract | Source


A cataract is when a normally clear eye lens becomes clouded over. This is a normal aging process and most people by the age of 75 will have cataracts. Smoking can cause cataract formation to speed up.

There are many symptoms which include:

  • Blurry Vision
  • Poor night vision
  • Seeing double
  • Problems differentiating colors
  • Highly sensitive to glare

There are several different types of cataracts, so depending on what type of cataract one has can relate to the different symptoms.

Treatment and Surgery For Cataracts

When someone is first diagnosed with cataracts eyeglasses, new and stronger bifocals may be all that is needed for coping. When cataracts start to seriously impair the vision to the point where it is affecting someone's lifestyle surgery should be the next step. Cataract surgery is very successful. The surgeon removed the clouded lens and replaces it with a plastic intraocular lens.

Vision for someone that has AMD versus someone without AMD

This is how someone with Age-related mascular degeneration might see
This is how someone with Age-related mascular degeneration might see | Source
This would be normal vision.
This would be normal vision. | Source

Age-Related Macular Degenertion

What is AMD or age-related macular degeneration?

AMD slowly destroys the macula, which is needed for seeing clearly. The macula is at the back of the eye and is made up of light-sensing cells. When this becomes damaged vision becomes blurred as you can see in the picture. Many of the things we do and take for granted such as reading, driving, and so on becomes impossible to continue doing.

This can happen in one or both eyes. It gradually occurs and usually happens to people over the age of 50. By smoking, however, your risk of developing AMD doubles.

For more information on AMD please visit the National Eye Institute or discuss this with your optometrist.

Other Eye Health Problems Related to Smoking Include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Amblyopia
  • Thyroid eye disease

Vascular Disease

Vascular eye disease blocks the blood flow to the eyes. Even though this is more common in people that have high blood pressure or diabetes one factor that increases the risk of developing vascular eye disease is smoking.

Symptoms include:

  • Loss of vision
  • Floaters
  • Blurry Vision


Just Ask Susan is not a healthcare professional in any capacity. Everything in this article was found through researching how smoking can affect the eyes. Please consult an optometrist or your family practitioner for further information.

If you'd like to read more hubs by Just Ask Susan please visit her profile page.
If you'd like to read more hubs by Just Ask Susan please visit her profile page. | Source

© 2012 Susan Zutautas


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