Posted by: North Georgia Eye Associates in Blog

Smoking and Your Eyes

It is a countdown to the end of the year and almost time to wave goodbye to 2021. Many people are beginning to think about their goals for 2022, and for some people, quitting smoking is their top goal. The most common health effect that comes to mind when we think of smoking is lung cancer, but it doesn’t stop there; your 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 over a long period can have a significant effect on your eye health and vision.

Consider these statistics that encourage to take steps forward to quit:

  • 34.1 million adults (over age 18) in the United States currently smoke cigarettes.
  • Smoking cigarettes remains the leading cause of preventable disease and disability in the United States.
  • There is good news about the number of smokers in the U.S., which has decreased from 20.9% in 2005 to 14.0% in 2019.

A new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that, while progress is being made, smoking and tobacco use remains a concern for the health of millions of Americans. 

Smoking makes for itchy, watery eyes, which can be a nuisance. However, more importantly, smoking escalates the risk for vision-threatening eye diseases are highlighted below: 

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, 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, reducing 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!


 American Academy of OphthalmologyThe content is researched and vetted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Optometric Association. This blog provides information and discussion about eye health and related subjects. The content provided on this blog and any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, they should consult with an appropriately licensed physician.