Does smoking affect the eyes?

smoking and eyes

PLX Academy · News · 21 April 2022

smoking and eyes

Researches consistently show that smoking increases the risk of developing eye diseases. Smokers are 16 times more likely to have sudden vision loss due to optic neuropathy than non-smokers, or blockage of the blood vessels that feed the eye.

Studies have suggested that smokers have three times higher AMD incidence than non-smokers, which means smokers have more “blind spots” on their retina. The risk of AMD due to smoking is further enhanced during old age: up to five times higher compared to non-smokers. Smokers are at a double risk of developing cataracts and risk of diabetic complications, compared to non-smokers. 

Dry eye is a common eye problem that gets aggravated due to smoking. Cigarette smoke (active or passive) can cause irritation, itching, and redness in the eyes. Watery eyes are also often caused due to irritant chemicals in cigarette smoke.

Smoking also has a well-established link with blood pressure and a high predisposition to glaucoma. Additionally, smoking is also linked to a high risk of developing thyroid eye disease. At the same time, smoking is linked to abnormal eye movements, which can include jerky or circular movements. Nicotine is thought to disrupt the balance center in the brain resulting in nystagmus. 

Quitting smoking or not starting in the first place, is a way to ensure that good vision is maintained for as long as possible. A study carried out by the Macular Society showed that 53% of people were not aware that smoking can cause blindness. This lack of understanding signifies how important it is to make smokers aware of the risks, not just for their health- passive smokers are also at risk of smoking-related eye problems.