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Smoking And Eye Diseases: You’re Risking Blindness

Tobacco use causes more than 7 million deaths per year globally. This makes it the leading cause of preventable deaths. This nasty habit harms your health, and this includes your eyes.

Most people think about their lungs, respiratory system, and skin when it comes to smoking. These are the parts that show symptoms first with prolonged smoking. However, smoking also directly negatively affects vision and eye health.

There are many eye conditions and diseases associated with smoking. Learning about the effects of tobacco could be the information that finally makes you quit, or so we hope. Either way, this article sheds some light on the connection between smoking and eye health. It will also cover some of the eye diseases you could develop due to excessive smoking and tobacco use.

How Does Smoking Affect Your Vision?

Tobacco and cigarette smoke have a lot of toxins that you introduce into the body through smoking and tobacco use. These toxins travel into the bloodstream, spreading across the body tissues, including the eyes.

Smoking cigarettes increases the development of atherosclerotic plaques. These are collections of cholesterol and fat that often build up in arteries. They are as thick as porridge, blocking the arteries and limiting blood flow.

The retina has a macular area that receives a constant blood supply. It spreads to the retinal receptors, which help the eye see. With obstruction in the arteries, the macular area does not receive enough blood supply.

Without a proper blood supply, the eye suffers, leading to less vision until total vision loss. People with age-related macular generation (AMD) and smoke suffer the most consequences since the disease is irreversible. And that is how smoking can make you blind.

Who Is At Risk?

Smoking affects everyone’s eyes, no matter how good our diet is. However, certain groups are at more risk in that progression is faster, and it becomes almost impossible to cure. These groups include:

Pregnant women

Smoking has a lot of adverse effects on pregnant women. It can lead to premature births, among other issues. Smoking increases the chances of retinopathy of prematurity among babies. This disorder occurs when the blood vessels of the newborn’s retina do not develop properly. It causes retinal detachment and even blindness. Pregnant women are also more likely to develop various eye diseases.


This is the highest risk group of smokers. People with diabetes are more likely to suffer from diabetic retinopathy. It is a condition that occurs when the eye blood vessels sustain damage. Smoking makes these symptoms worse while triggering dry eye.


Studies show that children exposed to passive, or second-hand, smoke can develop eye problems. The smoke causes the layer of the retina filled with blood vessels (choroid) to thin. This puts the child’s vision at risk.

What Eye Disease Do You Develop Due To Smoking?

Smokers develop multiple eye-related conditions due to their habits. The most common include:

Dry eye

Smoking and second-hand smoke exposure increase the chances of developing dry eye. This syndrome occurs when the eye does not receive sufficient lubrication on the surface.

The eyes do not produce enough tears since the toxins in the smoke affect their proper function. Dry eye triggers symptoms of irritation, burning, and redness in the eye. Your eyes will feel scratchy and stingy. Smokers are twice as likely to develop dry eye.

Diabetic retinopathy

Smokers with diabetes are increasingly likely to develop this condition. It is when the blood vessels in the eye sustain damage.

Smoking significantly causes the blood vessels to damage, causing blurry and distorted vision. Without treatment, it could lead to blindness. Medication and surgery help to maintain the condition. Doctors advise people with diabetes to quit smoking and using tobacco products.


This is a common condition that affects heavy smokers. If you smoke 15 or more cigarettes a day, you are at high risk of getting cataracts. You are three times more likely to develop this condition.

This condition causes clouding of the eye lens. This leads to blurry vision and discolored eyes. You can get surgery to remove cataracts because, with time, they can cause blindness.

Age-related macular degeneration

This disease occurs when the macula of the retina sustains damage. It makes you lose central vision and is, therefore, unable to see fine details.

Studies show that smokers are more likely to get this condition than people who have never smoked. AMD requires laser treatment and medication to slow down progression. However, there is no cure, the disease will only worsen.


This is a disease that affects the uvea of the eye. It is the middle layer of the eye wall. Cigarette toxins cause uveitis by making this part inflamed.

This part also becomes red, with pain and trouble seeing. Over time, the condition damages the retina and the iris, leading to cataracts and other diseases. It can even cause permanent vision loss if it is not treated.

Thyroid orbitopathy

This is a disease that affects the thyroid gland, causing bulging eyes or exophthalmos. Studies show that this disease is more prevalent in people who smoke.

They develop abnormally bulging eyes which can have pain and redness. Progression of the diseases leads to visual problems and sometimes blindness. Therefore, smokers need to stop immediately when they notice the symptoms.


This is a condition where the optic nerve sustains gradual cell breakdown. The nerve cells slowly die, and this affects vision significantly.

It gradually leads to total vision loss, and since it is slow, people do not notice until it is too late. Smokers are more likely to develop glaucoma because of the toxins in cigarettes, they affect cells, and tissues, causing a lot of damage.

Limit Smoking And Tobacco Use

Smoking is an addiction. It could cost you a lot of body parts and senses if you do not quit. Smokers are encouraged to kick the habit. Even if you backslide, you should try again because the more you try, the better your chance of succeeding.

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