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Smoking damages your eyesight as well as your health

We all know that smoking causes various nasty illnesses such as cancer, but did you know it can severely affect your eyes and sight, too?

man smoking

Age-related Macular Degeneration

When you inhale cigarette smoke, the toxins spread throughout your entire body, including your eyes. This can lead to many different problems, including cataracts and Age-related Macular Degeneration, (AMD).

AMD is one of the UK’s leading causes of sight loss; it is the breakdown of the macula which is the area that allows the eye to see fine details clearly. When the macula doesn’t work properly, vision becomes blurred and dark in the centre.


Cataracts are another leading cause of vision impairment in the UK; these are caused by the clear lens in the eye becoming cloudy which impairs vision and can hamper daily routines. An operation to replace the lens is the only way to clear the cloudy vision.

Although smoking does not directly cause these issues, it can increase the risk of you developing the problems. In fact, it doubles the chances and lowers the age at which you are likely to develop them.

Smoking can also increase sight related problems in diabetics too.

Diabetic retinopathy is an eye complication associated with diabetes where the blood vessels that supply the retina are damaged by high blood sugar levels. When these blood vessels become damaged, they may leak fluid and grow scar tissue which can then distort the images the retina sends to the brain.

Smoking is a significant risk factor for developing diabetic retinopathy due to a reduced supply of oxygen to the eye. Smoking can also increase blood pressure and raise blood sugar levels in diabetics, which make it harder to control the diabetes.

Research has shown that any amount of smoking, even light, occasional or second-hand can affect your eye health and increase your chances of suffering sight-threatening eye diseases.

Thyroid Eye Disease

It has also been found to increase a person’s risk of Thyroid Eye Disease, (TED).

TED is an auto-immune disease caused by Graves’ disease. It is an eye condition where the eye muscles become inflamed; the body’s immune system attacks the back of the eye and causes the inflammation. Although the risk of sight loss due to TED is rare, it can have an impact on your psychological and social well-being.

If you are a non-smoker with Graves’ disease, the chances of developing TED are less than one in ten. Heavy smokers increase their risk by eight times, compared to non-smokers.

Dry Eye Syndrome

Other than problems to your sight, smoking can also cause other issues with your eyes. Exposure to smoke and cigarette fumes can irritate the eyes and contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome. It reduces the amount of oxygen that can reach your eyes and can also break down the lipid (oily) layer in the tears, which would increase tear evaporation and cause the dry eye symptoms. These include being red, gritty and sore.

Start your smoke free journey today; speak to your GP about stopping smoking or visit the stop smoking section on the NHS website for more information.

If you feel you are having problems with your eyes or your vision due to smoking, don’t hesitate to contact your local opticians.

smoking damages eyesight infographic

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