For smokers, barely a day goes by that someone doesn’t mention a reason you should quit. While you may understand how smoking affects your overall physical and financial well being, you may not know that smoking also wreaks major devastation on your eye health. For just as many reasons why your medical doctor encourages you to quit, so does your doctor of optometry.


Your chance of developing cataracts, where the lenses of your eye become cloudy or obscured, in your lifetime is significant. Smokers face double the risk of developing cataracts, and often do so much earlier in life than their non-smoking counterparts. Cataract treatment generally requires surgery to correct.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD) occurs when debris called “drusen” builds up in the central part of the retina, or the Macula. The result is that the central part of your vision begins to fade away. ARMD can result in blindness and smokers expose themselves to three to four times higher risk of developing ARMD. There is currently no cure and doctors of optometry can only try to prevent its progression.

Dry Eye

As you age, your eyes generally produce less tears, especially for post-menopausal females. Smokers suffer twice as much from this condition as non-smokers. This condition causes redness and irritation in eyes and can be very detrimental to your comfort and vision.

Graves/Thyroid Opthamology

One side effect of thyroid disease is called Graves Opthamology. In this symptom, an overactive thyroid causes the muscles and tissues of the eye to swell dramatically. The result can be distended or protruding eyeballs that require immediate intervention to protect your vision. Smoking makes these possible symptoms much more likely for people also battling thyroid disease.

Optic Nerve Damage and Retinopathy

Smoking causes a number of terrible things to happen to your arteries and veins. This occurs all throughout the body, including the eyes. Rising pressure in eye vessels can cause glaucoma and optic nerve damage, both very serious conditions that can steal your sight.

The list of negative effects of smoking upon your vision could go on and on. The good news is that quitting allows your body to reverse some damage and heal itself, and the more often you try to quit, the more likely you will be successful in quitting. For more information on smoking and your vision, please consult your doctor of optometry.