How Does Smoking Affect Your Eyes?

Smoking affects the health of large numbers of people and nearly 8 million deaths each year are related to smoking in the world. The harm of smoking is obvious and widely known and it can have direct and negative effects on the eyes and vision. The news of the World Health Organization (WHO) claims that the risk of specific eye diseases and permanent vision loss will be raised due to smoking. To make the public realize the dangers of smoking more comprehensively, the WHO therefore designated May 31st as World No Tobacco Day.

world no tobacco day

How Does Smoking Affect Your Eyes?

Smoking can hurt specific organs in people’s body and result in severe diseases. According to relevant research, there are more than 7,000 harmful ingredients in tobacco, which makes smoking reduces average life expectancy by about 10 years. Those toxic substances in tobacco will bear the brunt of the damage to human lungs and cause diseases related to the respiratory system. Furthermore, tumors, cancers, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases can all be induced by smoking.

smoking related eye diseasesThe adverse influences of smoking on the eyes can happen directly and indirectly. For instance, smoking can restrict insulin secretion and keep blood sugar high for a long time, thereby increasing the risk of diabetes, which continuously, can lead to vision loss due to diabetic retinopathy. On the other hand, smoking can disrupt blood flow in the eye tissue, resulting in ischemia in the eye, visual impairment and vision loss, as well as a poor response to treatment, all of which have a significant impact on quality of life. Or smoking can make the lens cloudy and cause oxidative harm that can lead to cataracts directly.

How on earth does smoking affect the eyes? As you might know that the anatomy of human eyeballs is actually complicated. They consist of multiple parts such as lens, iris, cornea, pupil, retina, and so on. And each of these areas is likely to be influenced by tobacco. For example, the cataracts caused by smoking are because the lens of the eyes is clouded, which should normally be clear. In line with some studies, people who smoke have 2 or 3 times of probability of having cataracts than those who don’t smoke.

how the eyes workIn addition to affecting the lens and leading to cataracts, smoking can also hurt the retina and cause retinal detachment, which will result in vision loss or sometimes blindness. Retinal detachment is actually not a common eye disorder in individuals, however, smoking can also increase the risk of its prevalence. In the meantime, the macular is part of the eye that can be influenced by smoking as well, making it 4 times more likely to cause macular degeneration.

What are the Symptoms of Eye Diseases Related to Smoking?

Smoking cigarettes hurts a lot of organs in the human body, and it therefore always accelerates aging and increases the risk of a lot of diseases. As it’s mentioned above, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and macular degeneration are the serious eye diseases that can be induced by smoking and they happen to be the leading reason of vision loss in the world. And the symptoms of these eye diseases include:

Diabetic retinopathy:

  • Blurred vision
  • Cloudy vision
  • Double vision
  • Loss of peripheral vision


  • Blurred vision
  • Cloudy eyeballs
  • Double vision
  • Sensitive to the lights

Macular degeneration:

  • Blurred vision
  • Central vision loss
  • Straight lines look wavy
  • Blind spots in the vision

how smoking affects the eyes

In fact, besides these three situations, there are more eye conditions related to smoking. People who smoke tobacco have more probability of having eye diseases like dry eye syndrome, optic nerve problems, uveitis, or Graves’ ophthalmopathy. Dry eye syndrome and uveitis have been introduced in the previous articles. Furthermore, the brain and the eyes are linked by the optic nerve, which means blindness may result from damage to this nerve. In this case, the risk of glaucoma increases as it’s the disease affecting the optic nerve.

While Graves’ ophthalmopathy is a disease related to the thyroid gland, it’s also known as thyroid eye disease. The symptoms of this disease can be reflected in the eyes and make huge discomfort. Though smoking is playing an unknown role in Grave’s ophthalmopathy, there is still research indicating that the prevalence of this disease increases due to smoking. All these eye conditions might have similar visual symptoms and it always feels insufferable no matter experiencing any of them. The symptoms of these diseases can be:

Dry eye syndrome:

  • Blurred vision
  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning eyes
  • Sting eyes

Grave’s ophthalmopathy:

  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Sensitive eyes
  • Bulging eyes


  • Blurred vision
  • Itchy eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Eye discharge

Optic nerve problems:

  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Nausea

smoking related eye diseases symptoms

Can Smoking Lead to Vision Loss and Blindness?

Can smoking lead to vision loss and blindness? The answer is yes. Smoking would raise the probability of suffering many types of eye disease, and most of these eye disorders have symptoms of permanent vision loss or even blindness in a more severe way. Take cataracts and macular degeneration as an example, both these two eye diseases are the world leading cause of vision loss regarding the records of WHO. It’s one of the important reasons that WHO created the World No Tobacco Day, to reduce the prevalence of eye diseases and blindness all over the world.

To talk about the negative effects of smoking on the eyes in a theoretical way, besides the well-known nicotine, which makes people addicted, there are many other toxic ingredients in tobacco that can harm people’s eyes, such as chromium, arsenic, formaldehyde, hydrogen cyanide, and so on. It’s hard to totally prevent or treat the dangers of these elements as they are countless in tobacco.

smoking harms people's healthThe gas that is produced by smoking, which is called secondhand smoke, also hurt the eyes and the vision. In this case, smoking not only causes damage to the health of someone who is using cigarettes, but also hurt people who are by their side all the time. Especially when the smokers have a family who is pregnant, the detriment will attack the mother first, and then the baby’s eyes and even the brain would be harmed. This kind of tragedy would be overwhelming.

To some extent, as one of the highly possible consequences of smoking, vision loss seems not that serious compared with malignant tumors or cancer. However, it always costs a lot to experience no matter which kind of disease, and sometimes the disease won’t come alone. In this way, the price of losing health can be often unbearable. And to talk about the above-mentioned eye diseases, most of them are irreversible and cannot be cured. This is why the eye doctors emphasize that it’s always more crucial to prevent the eye diseases.

quit smoking to protect the eyesThe intention of World No Tobacco Day is to make people realize the giant harm of tobacco and the possible consequences. Of course, eye health is just one of the aspects that can be affected by smoking, but it’s also meaningful to spread the necessity of quitting smoking by knowing that smoking might lead to eyesight loss. On World No Tobacco Day, we call on people to leave tobacco, for protecting not only their own health but also the health of their family and loved ones.


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