How Smoking Can Harm Your Vision

Though the number of smokers in the U.K. is at an all-time low, there are around one in six adults that light up on a daily basis. While most people are aware that smoking can have a severe effect on physical health, from heart disease to lung cancer, not everyone knows just how much of an impact regular smoking can have on vision. Here are a few of the ways that cigarettes can affect overall eye health.

Macular Degeneration

No matter how healthy you are, you're bound to experience some degree of macular degeneration as you age. As we age, our sight starts to fail due to fatty deposits behind the eye, or blood vessels leaking under the retina. This causes scar tissue to form, which can impair both long- and short-distance vision.
Smoking speeds up the process of macular degeneration, resulting in premature loss of sight. Smokers are about three to four times more likely to experience macular degeneration in the course of their lifetime, while secondhand smoke almost doubles the risk.


Cataracts are another condition associated with age, with an estimated 30% of people 65 years or older having a cataract in one or both eyes. While most people don't develop cataracts until their senior years, smoking can speed up the process and result in premature loss of eyesight. Having cataracts clouds the eye's lens, making everyday activities such as driving difficult and severely impacting independence and quality of life.


Age and thyroid problems are two of the biggest risk factors when it comes to glaucoma, but smoking can also increase the likelihood of developing the condition. Increased pressure within the eye slowly kills cells in the optic nerve, resulting in a loss of vision. The onset is usually very slow, meaning that many people don't know that they have glaucoma until more serious symptoms start showing themselves.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Choosing to give up smoking will reduce your chances of developing diabetes. In addition to the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and nerve damage, diabetes can also take a toll on vision. Diabetic retinopathy involves the breakdown of small blood vessels in the eye, causing irreversible damage.

Smoking doesn't just affect the lungs. Every organ in the body suffers from excessive nicotine consumption, from the lungs to the eyes. Cutting back on or quitting smoking can help you to maintain your vision and lead a longer, healthier, and happier lifestyle.

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