How to Protect Your Eyes from the Harmful Effects of Smoke

When it comes to smoking, we know that this bad habit can cause detrimental health problems including lung and respiratory complications, heart disease, cancer, and gum disease. Among all the dangers that smoking can pose to the body’s organs, many people may not know that smoking can be just as harmful to your vision. Common eye problems that have been linked to smoking include cataracts, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, dry eyes, and more. Quit smoking or don’t start to protect your eyes (and entire body) from the damage that smoke can cause.

1. Avoid Smoking and Limit Exposure to Secondhand Smoke

If you’ve never smoked, do not start. Limit contact with secondhand smoke as much as possible and protect yourself through 100% smoke-free environments. If you’ve thought about quitting, it’s never too late to set yourself up on a path to better eyesight and overall wellness. There are many resources available, like the annual Great American Smokeout sponsored by the American Cancer Society, to aid you in your plan to quit.

2. Know the Risks

You can reduce your risk of sight loss by learning all the negative impacts smoking can have on your eyes and then creating a plan to quit. As soon as you stop smoking, you lower your risk of developing the sight-threatening eye conditions below:

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

Smokers are found 4 times more than non-smokers to have AMD, an age-related condition that impacts central vision. The earlier you get a diagnosis of AMD, the greater the chance that treatment will slow the progression of the disease.


People who smoke have up to 3 times the risk of getting cataracts, a clouding of the lenses. The only way to correct cataracts is through surgery.

Dry Eye

Exposure to smoke is a major irritant to your eyes and can impair the body’s ability to generate sufficient tears, thus dry, red, and itchy eyes.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Smoking as much as doubles the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes-related complication involving vision damage to the retina. This disease can be treatable if picked up soon enough.


Smokers are more likely to develop high blood pressure, increasing the risk of developing glaucoma, often caused by high pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. There is no cure for glaucoma, but treatments include medicine, laser treatment or surgery.

3. Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam

Annual comprehensive eye exams are extremely important to maintain your eye health. Whether you smoke or not, it is important to see an optometrist regularly to have your eyes checked to ensure that eye conditions are detected and treated early.

Harmful Effects of Smoking on Your Eyes infographic


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