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Smoking and Your Eyesight

It is the countdown to the end of the year and almost time to wave goodbye to the year 2020. Many people are beginning to think about their goals for 2021, and for some people to quit smoking is probably their top goal.  The most common health effects that come to mind when we think of smoking is lung cancer, but it doesn’t stop there – our eye health is also in jeopardy.

Smoking is harmful to every system in the body, and it is detrimental to our vision. A smoking habit can do more damage to our eyesight than the disease can, in a few different ways.

Smoking: A Risk Factor for Every Age-Related Eye Disease

Studies have shown that smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and even Dry Eye Syndrome. Let’s take a closer look at a few of these.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

AMD is the deterioration of the macula (the central part of the retina where we see the sharpest detail), causing irreversible blindness. Compared to nonsmokers, smokers have triple the risk of developing AMD, and they’re more likely to begin developing the disease up to ten years earlier than nonsmokers do on average.


Smoking doubles the risk of cataracts, the world’s leading cause of blindness. For heavy smokers, it triples the risk! Cataract symptoms begin with blurred or double vision, light sensitivity, faded colors, and reduced night vision. Fortunately, cataract surgeries are prevalent and safe, so this type of vision loss usually isn’t irreversible.


Retinopathy is an eye disease closely associated with diabetes, but smoking increases a person’s chances of developing diabetes by up to 40 percent, thereby increasing the risk of retinopathy. Poorly controlled blood sugar damages the blood vessels in the retina, causing them to leak blood into the eye. If the damage is severe enough, it can eventually starve the retina of oxygen and lead to blindness.

Smokers Aren’t Always the Only Ones Affected

Secondhand smoke combines the smoke from the end of the cigarette with what the smoker exhales. In addition to harming the vision of the smoker, it can put the eyesight of others at risk, too, along with many other health effects. The most vulnerable are young children and infants.

Vaping: Is Not a Safe Alternative

Vaping is proclaimed as the “healthy” alternative to smoking. Still, many of the chemicals in an e-cigarette liquid have been linked to increased risks of these same vision-threatening diseases we’ve discussed. 

Break the Habit to Save Your Vision

Smoking is the most preventable cause of vision loss because we can control whether or not we do it. It’s never too late to quit. Quitting reduces the risk of macular degeneration by six percent after just one year, and it also reduces the risk of developing cataracts! As your eye care specialists, we care deeply about your health. If you need resources to help you quit smoking, the American Cancer Society has helpful tips

Your Eye Health is Our Top Goal!  

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