How Does Smoking Affect Eyesight?

We all know that smoking is harmful to our health, but one area that often gets overlooked is the detrimental impact it can have on our eyesight. With smoking being a leading cause of preventable diseases globally, understanding the risks it poses to our eyes is essential.

Increased Risk of Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a condition that causes the gradual loss of central vision and is the leading cause of blindness among older adults in developed countries. Studies have consistently shown that smoking significantly increases the risk of developing macular degeneration. The harmful chemicals present in cigarette smoke damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to decreased blood flow and oxygen supply to the macula, the central part of the retina responsible for clear, detailed vision.

Development or Worsening of Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is an increasingly common condition characterised by insufficient lubrication of the eyes, leading to discomfort, inflammation, and blurry vision. Smoking contributes to the development and exacerbation of dry eye syndrome. The toxic compounds in cigarette smoke irritate the eyes and reduce tear production, resulting in dryness and discomfort. Individuals who smoke are more likely to experience dry eye symptoms such as redness, itching, burning, and a gritty sensation in the eyes.

Increased Risk of Cataracts

Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of the eye, leading to blurred vision and eventual vision loss if left untreated. Smoking has been identified as a significant risk factor for cataract development. The harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke accelerate the oxidative stress within the lens, causing the proteins to clump together and form cataracts. Smokers are twice as likely to develop cataracts compared to non-smokers, and the risk increases with the duration and intensity of smoking.

Impact on Optic Nerve and Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterised by damage to the optic nerve, leading to vision loss. Smoking has been identified as a risk factor for developing open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the disease. The toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke reduce blood flow to the optic nerve, compromising its function and increasing the risk of glaucoma. Smokers with glaucoma may also experience a more rapid progression of the disease compared to non-smokers, putting them at a higher risk of irreversible vision loss.

Smoking is not only harmful to the lungs and cardiovascular system; it also poses significant risks to eye health. The devastating consequences of smoking on eyesight, such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye syndrome, should serve as compelling reasons to quit smoking. By taking steps to quit smoking and adopting a healthy lifestyle, individuals can protect their vision, reduce their risk of developing sight-threatening conditions, and improve their overall quality of life.

If you are affected by the vision disorders mentioned, contact Bristol’s leading private ophthalmic clinic, Vision Care Clinic on 0117 905 7722 to book your comprehensive consultation with one of our specialist eye surgeons, Mr Kieren Darcy, Mr Sid Liyanage or Mr Manasses.

Published 26th March 2024
by Helen Wood
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We all know that smoking is harmful to our health, but one area that often gets overlooked is the detrimental impact it can have on our eyesight. With smoking being a leading cause of preventable diseases globally, understanding the risks it poses to our eyes is essential.

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