Smoking and Eye Health: What you need to know?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Smoking is known for its adverse effects on health, but one of the most concerning impacts is on eye health. Apart from its well-known effects on the lungs and cardiovascular system, cigarette smoke toxic substances also severely affect the delicate structures of the eyes.

They are intricately linked, and the consequences extend far beyond what we can see. Explore the compelling reasons why smoking is such a significant threat to our windows of perception – our eyes.

How smoking increased the risk of Macular Degeneration?

“Although smoking is associated with several eye diseases, including nuclear cataract and thyroid eye disease, the most common cause of smoking related blindness is age-related macular degeneration, which results in severe irreversible loss of central vision.”

Simon Kelly FRCOphth, Consultant Ophthalmologist.,combination%20of%20genetics%20and%20smoking.
anonymous oculist examining vision of patient on eye screener
Photo by Ksenia Chernaya on

People aged 50 and over are at an increased risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) caused by smoking.  You can experience blurred vision when you have age-related macular degeneration.
AMD affects the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for sharp, central vision. Research has established a strong correlation between smoking and the development of both early and advanced stages of AMD.

  • Oxidative Stress
image 1
  • Vascular Damage

Smoking causes narrowing and hardening of blood vessels, a condition known as atherosclerosis. The vascular damage extends to the tiny blood vessels that supply the macula, compromising their integrity. Reduced blood flow to the macula can result in the formation of abnormal blood vessels or leakage, contributing to Macular Degeneration.

  • Inflammation

Smoking, including the eyes, is a known trigger for inflammation throughout the body. Inflammation contributes to the development of macular degeneration. Inflammatory processes can disrupt the delicate balance of the eye’s tissues, accelerating cellular damage and increasing the risk of this vision-threatening condition.

  • Nicotine’s Impact

Nicotine, a highly addictive component of cigarette smoke, has vasoconstrictive effects, meaning it narrows blood vessels. This constriction reduces blood flow to the macula, further exacerbating the risk of Macular Degeneration. The compromised blood supply diminishes the delivery of essential nutrients and oxygen to the macula, contributing to its degeneration.

  • Interference with Antioxidants

Smoking destroys antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, zinc, that maintain eye health. A deficiency in these antioxidants weakens the eye’s defenses against oxidative stress, making the macula more susceptible to damage and increasing the vulnerability to Macular Degeneration.

  • Cumulative Effect

The detrimental impact of smoking on the eyes is cumulative over time. The longer an individual smokes and the higher the quantity of cigarettes smoked, the greater the risk of developing Macular Degeneration. Quitting smoking can slow down this cumulative effect and reduce the risk, emphasizing the importance of smoking cessation for preserving eye health.

In conclusion, smoking’s association with Macular Degeneration is rooted in its ability to induce oxidative stress, cause vascular damage, trigger inflammation, and interfere with essential antioxidants. Understanding these mechanisms reinforces the imperative of adopting a smoke-free lifestyle to safeguard the eyes from the devastating consequences of Macular Degeneration.

Smoking can increase the risk of Cataracts


Smokers are more prone to cataracts, which are cloudings of the natural lens of the eye. The toxic substances in cigarette smoke, including free radicals, can accelerate clouding. In comparison to non-smokers, smokers are more likely to develop cataracts earlier in life. Read more in details at

Smoking can increase a Dry Eye Syndrome

Insufficient lubrication of the eyes can cause dry eye syndrome, which is increased by smoking. It may surprise you to discover that cigarettes contain almost 7,000 chemicals. 

The majority of them cause irritation and damage to your eyes. A smoker’s chances of suffering from dry eyes are double those of someone who doesn’t smoke. Chemicals in smoke can irritate the eyes, leading to discomfort, redness, and a higher susceptibility to dry eyes.

man smoking cigar
Photo by Flo Luetzel on

Smoking increases the risk of damaging optic nerves

From the eyes to the brain, the optic nerve transmits visual information. It has been shown in several studies that smoking increases the risk of damaging optic nerves, potentially leading to eye diseases such as glaucoma.

Here is how smoking contributes to optic nerve damage.

  • Vascular Compromise:

Vascular Compromise is a serious issue caused by smoking, which can lead to the constriction and narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body. As a result, blood flow to the optic nerve is compromised, which can result in damage to the nerve.

As a result, the optic nerve is deprived of essential nutrients and oxygen, leading to ischemia and damage to nerve fibers. This damage to the blood vessels can contribute to the degeneration of the optic nerve, potentially leading to vision impairment or loss.

  • Increased Risk of Glaucoma:

If you use tobacco products, you are at the risk of of glaucoma. There are various type of Glaucoma. This condition causes elevated pressure inside the eye to damage the optic nerve.

Research indicates that smoking can raise intraocular pressure, further straining the optic nerve and increasing the possibility of glaucoma development. Glaucoma can cause irreversible optic nerve damage if left untreated, resulting in permanent vision loss.

  1. Oxidative Stress and Inflammation:The toxic substances in cigarette smoke induce oxidative stress and trigger inflammatory responses within the eye tissues, including the optic nerve. Chronic exposure to these inflammatory processes can damage nerve cells, impairing the functionality of the optic nerve and potentially leading to vision-related complications.
  2. Impact on Blood-Brain Barrier:There is some evidence that smoking compromises the blood-brain barrier, an important barrier that regulates how substances move between the bloodstream and the brain. Disruption of this barrier due to smoking-related toxins can affect the optic nerve’s microenvironment, rendering it more susceptible to damage.
  3. Compounding Effects with Other Eye Conditions: For individuals already predisposed to optic nerve-related conditions or diseases such as optic neuritis or ischemic optic neuropathy, smoking can exacerbate these conditions. Smoking can intensify the damage to the optic nerve, leading to more severe symptoms and potential vision loss.

In summary, smoking poses a multifaceted threat to the optic nerves by compromising blood flow, increasing the risk of glaucoma, inducing oxidative stress and inflammation, affecting the blood-brain barrier, and compounding the effects of existing eye conditions.

Recognizing the detrimental impact of smoking on optic nerve health reinforces the importance of smoking cessation as a crucial step toward preserving vision and safeguarding eye health.

Is there a way to cure smoking’s effect on eye health?

square poster of cure smokings effect on eye health

Stopping smoking is the most effective way to deal with the effects of smoking on eye health. While some damage caused by smoking may be irreversible, quitting smoking can significantly reduce the progression of eye-related conditions and enhance overall ocular health.

Here are steps to mitigate the impact of smoking on eye health:

Smoking Cessation:

It is necessary to quit smoking. It can sometimes be difficult for some people to quit, but it is not impossible. If you want to kick the habit, you can talk to a healthcare professional, participate in a smoking cessation program, or join a support group.

Regular Eye Exams:

Regular eye exams should be scheduled with an eye care professional. Detecting early signs of smoking-related eye conditions can be possible with comprehensive eye exams, allowing timely intervention.

Healthy Lifestyle:

Healthy lifestyles are crucial to protecting eye health. You can do this by maintaining a healthy diet full of antioxidants, staying hydrated, and adding eye-friendly nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, and zinc.

Protective Eyewear:

Wearing sunglasses that offer UV protection shield your eyes from harmful environmental factors, such as ultraviolet (UV) rays. Proper eye protection during activities that pose a risk of eye injury is also essential.

Consultation with Healthcare Provider:

If you are experiencing specific eye-related symptoms due to smoking or have been diagnosed with an eye condition aggravated by smoking (like Macular Degeneration, cataracts, or uveitis), consult an eye specialist for tailored treatment options and management strategies.

Medication and Treatment:

In some cases, medical intervention may be necessary to manage eye conditions. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications, eye drops, or specific treatments to alleviate symptoms or slow the progression of smoking-related eye issues.

Lifestyle Modifications:

Consider additional lifestyle adjustments to support eye health, such as maintaining proper hydration, avoiding prolonged exposure to screens, ensuring adequate sleep, and practicing good eye hygiene.

Remember, quitting smoking benefits eye health and contributes to overall well-being. If you have specific eye health needs, it is imperative to seek advice from healthcare professionals.

Subscribe our free newsletters

Leave a Reply

Up ↑

Translate »