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  • Writer's pictureMaria Cholakova

Smoking and Eyesight: How Tobacco Smoking Damages our Eyes?

Updated: Oct 3, 2023

Smoking contributes to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and cancer. But many people don't know that regular smoking also affects your vision and eye health. Keep on reading to learn more about how smoking can damage your eyes:

How smoking affects the eyes?

In some cases, the smoking eye damage could be quite serious.

Smoking tobacco increases the risks of developing blurred vision from cataracts and central vision loss from age-related macular degeneration. Moreover, these alarming eye problems can develop at any age. And the more you smoke, the greater the risk.

People who smoke tobacco are twice as likely as non-smokers to develop uveitis (a serious disease affecting the 'uvea' or middle layer of the eye). Frequent diabetic smokers are also at greater risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a disease that causes deteriorating eyesight by affecting the fine blood vessels in the retina.

Hand holding a cigarette

Tobacco smoke, even if you are a passive smoker, is irritating and worsens the symptoms of dry eye. Smoking also increases the risk of serious vision loss in people with existing and underlying eye conditions.

Moreover, if women smoke during pregnancy, they are more likely to give birth prematurely, putting their babies at higher risk of a potentially blinding disease called retinopathy of prematurity.

In addition to these direct effects on the eyes, smoking can also increase the risk of other health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, which can also impact your eyesight and cause smoking eye damage. High blood pressure can damage the blood vessels in the eyes, leading to serious conditions such as diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma.

Less-known facts about tobacco smoking and its effect on eye health

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that smokers are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration compared to non-smokers. The study also found that smokers are more likely to develop cataracts at an earlier age than non-smokers.

Another study published in the journal "Eye" found that smokers were more likely to develop optic nerve damage, which could potentially lead to vision loss. The study concludes that smokers have an increased risk of developing optic nerve damage compared to non-smokers and that this risk is even higher in individuals who smoke more than 20 cigarettes per day.

The good news is that after people quit smoking, the risks for some eye diseases and smoking eye damage become almost as low as for people who never smoke.
Woman breaking a cigarette

According to the American Cancer Society, reducing exposure to secondhand smoke and quitting smoking, are some of the best decisions you can make for your long-term health. You can find the help you need to quit smoking, as well as more resources for the overall health risks here.

Keep on reading about your eye health and the way to improve it in our For Patients blog section.


  • "The Association between Smoking and Age-related Macular Degeneration: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis." JAMA

  • "Smoking and optic nerve head damage." Eye

  • "Smoking and Eyesight" Dr. Atanas Bogoev for Ochno Zdrave

  • "Smoking and Eye Health" American Academy of Ophthalmology

All medical facts were checked by Atanas Bogoev M.D.

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