• Smoking and Eye Disease

    Written By: Kierstan Boyd
    Reviewed By: Brenda Pagan-Duran MD
    Apr. 27, 2017

    Smoking contributes to a number of major health problems, including heart disease, stroke and cancer. But many people do not know that smoking also affects your vision.

    At any age, smoking increases your risks for developing cloudy vision from cataracts and central vision loss from age-related macular degeneration (AMD). And the more you smoke, the higher your risk.

    People who smoke are twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop uveitis, a serious condition affecting the uvea, or middle layer of the eye. Smokers are also at greater risk for developing diabetic retinopathy, a vision-stealing disease affecting the eye’s retina.

    Tobacco smoke, including second-hand smoke, is an irritant that worsens dry eye, a very uncomfortable eye condition that is most common in women after menopause.

    Smoking also increases the risk of serious vision loss in people with other eye diseases. And when women smoke during pregnancy they are more likely to give birth prematurely, putting their babies at higher risk for a potentially blinding disease called retinopathy of prematurity as well as other health problems.

    The good news is that after people quit smoking, their risks for some eye diseases becomes almost as low as for people who never smoked.

    Photograph of a fist crushing cigarettesThe American Cancer Society has resources to help people who want to quit smoking.

    Avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke — or quitting if you are a smoker — are some of the best investments you can make in your long-term eye health.