Smoking & Eye Health

New Era Eyecare
Feb 4 · 3 min read

Here’s something you’ve likely heard a thousand times before (likely more if you’re a smoker): Smoking is the single largest preventable cause of disease and premature death in the America.

It’s no secret that smoking wreaks havoc on our bodies. Smoking is a leading cause for heart disease, COPD, lung cancer, embolisms. Smoking causes damage to nearly every organ in our body, but something we rarely think about is the link between smoking and damage to our eye health. For example, did you know that generally, smokers are 4 times more likely to experience vision loss than non-smokers? Let’s dive into the ways that smoking deteriorates eye health.


Cataracts, or clouding of the clear lens of the eye, is the leading cause of vision loss worldwide. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly 50% of Americans will need to have cataract removal surgery by age 80, making it fairly common. Several studies show that smoking increases chances of developing cataracts by at least 100%. The more you smoke, the higher your risk increases.


Smoking dehydrates your body, stripping moisture away from cells throughout your whole body. Why? Nicotine is a diuretic, which promotes diuresis or an increased passing of urine. Because nicotine causes more frequent urination, your body loses water and hydration quickly. As a result, your system cannot produce enough lubricating tears, thus leading to dry eye. Already have dry eyes? Smoking will make it noticeably worse as smoke particles are also known irritants to our corneas.

Macular Degeneration

We’ve discussed age-related macular degeneration (AMD) several times in the past, but in case you’re unfamiliar, here’s how we define it: AMD is an illness that develops as we age, and it causes vision loss in the center of the eye. Our central vision is vital for day-to-day tasks such as reading, driving, cutting vegetables, etc.

Here’s the scary part — smokers have a 300% higher risk of developing macular degeneration than non-smokers, and women over 80 that smoke are 550% more likely to develop this disease. Smokers are also more likely to develop AMD 5 years sooner than non-smokers.

Diabetic Retinopathy

There is a fairly strong link between smoking and diabetes. Some studies suggest that smoking may increase risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 40% to 100%. According to these studies, the more you smoke, the higher your risk of developing this life-altering disease.

A complication that can arise from diabetes is diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy damages blood vessels in and around the retina, which often results in vision loss.

In this modern day, we are all aware that smoking is extremely harmful to us, but also to the people around us through second and third hand smoke. If you’re looking to quit smoking for good, we suggest the following: talk to your primary care physician about cessation options, visit (a great resource for those struggling to quit) or download the Smoke Free app.

Are you a smoker that is concerned about having caused severe damage to your eye health? We can help! Contact us today to schedule an appointment here:

New Era Eyecare

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The Highest Quality of Eye Care. Our optometrists provide comprehensive eye care to patients of all ages. Schedule an appointment at

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