Smoking and Your Eyes

June 13, 2013

Nearly every medical professional decries the adverse effects of smoking to your overall health. Smoking can increase your risks for cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, heart attacks, strokes, cognitive dysfunction, female infertility, and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, smoking can severely decrease or even destroy ocular function.


Smoking decreases blood flow, can harden arteries, and can reduce antioxidant supply. These factors can instigate or worsen already developed ocular conditions. Smoking can topically irritate the eyes, leading to allergic conjunctivitis and/or dry eye, but can permanently damage the retina, macula, intraocular lens, and other portions of the eyes. If you are a smoker, routine eye exams are important to monitor potential ocular damage.


Smoking can cause numerous complications to the eyes, but a list of the most common complications is below.

  • Macular Degeneration (this condition can permanently destroy central vision)
  • Early Cataract Development (while cataracts progress normally with age, smoking can expedite development)
  • Dry Eye and Allergic Conjunctivitis (smoking can irritate the surface of the eye, causing inflammation)
  • Uveitis (inflammation in the middle layer of the eye, leading potentially to eye pain, floaters, and loss of vision, among other complications)
  • Graves’ Disease in patients with active thyroid disorders
  • Optic Neuropathy (damage to the optic nerve, which can lead to irreparable blindness)
  • Retinopathy of Prematurity in infants born to smoking mothers (this condition is an abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina, leading to complicated vision)


There are many methods through which you can quit smoking, varying from medication to support groups to quitting “cold turkey.” Whichever method you choose, know that your decision to quit smoking can have very beneficial results for your eye health and your overall health. For assistance in quitting smoking, please visit . Good luck! We know you can do it!