Smoking And Vision: What Is The Link?

smoking and vision

Key Takeaways:

  • Scientific evidence has established a dangerous link between smoking and vision health.
  • Studies found a higher association between smoking and eye diseases that leads to vision loss, including cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
  • On the bright side, there is also evidence that such risks can be reduced for those who quit smoking.


Tons of research demonstrated that smoking is one of the most harmful lifestyle practices. It is a well-established risk factor for a long list of serious illnesses, but does smoking affect eyesight as well? The short answer is yes.

Studies have not only found links between smoking and vision, but they’ve also revealed the harmful effects of smoking on the eyes in the long run. So keep reading as we dig into how they are related and what other ways may help your eye health along with quitting smoking.


What Makes Smoking Dangerous?


Smoke that comes from various types of tobacco products can contain thousands of harmful chemicals, many of which are known to be carcinogens.

Some of the common toxic substances a smoker can get from smoking include formaldehyde, lead, ammonia, hydrogen cyanide, benzene, and carbon monoxide. There’s also the fact that smoking is an addictive lifestyle practice mainly due to tobacco products’ nicotine content.

Because cigarettes and other tobacco products are consumed by inhalation, its smoke enters the lungs allowing these toxic chemicals to get to the bloodstream. This explains why smoking poses a major health threat to almost all body organs, especially the heart and brain.

Smoking, particularly nicotine, has also been linked to several cardiovascular risks. The substance is known to constrict blood vessels and cause oxidative damage.

Various effects of smoking can also increase the risks of developing cancer, including DNA damage and a weakened immune system. The CDC says smokers are also up to 13 times more likely to die from lung diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.


Does Smoking Affect Your Eyes?


There’s no doubt about the serious dangers smoking can cause to your overall health. There’s also enough evidence that shows smoking and vision don’t go well together.

So, how can smoking affect your eyes? One scientific review notes that the toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can lead to ischemic (blood flow restrictions) and oxidative damage to ocular tissues.

More specifically, smoking is known to negatively affect three parts of the eye, including:

  • Retina: A thin layer of tissue that allows light to enter the eyes and transmits light through the optic nerve and the brain, translating it to images we see.
  • Lens: Located behind the iris, it helps focus light for the retina, allowing you to see images.
  • Macula: A part of the retina mainly responsible for central vision, allowing you to see images or objects clearly in front of you.

More recent studies also show that the effect of smoking on cholesterol profile can pose long-term risks to eye health. For instance, findings from large-scale research revealed that smoking can “strongly increase” the risk of late age-related macular degeneration (AMD).


Can Smoking Cause Blurry Vision?


eyeglasses with clear vision


Some common eye diseases might not have apparent symptoms in the early stages of development. The state of your eyesight will typically signal you of any potential eye health concerns.

So, when it comes to the link between smoking and vision, this harmful habit is known to impact the latter and can cause blurry vision. Stress can cause it, too.

As mentioned, nicotine and other chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage or constrict blood vessels in the eyes. This can reduce your ability to see images or objects around you.


Does Smoking Cause Cataracts?


Cataracts form when there are changes in the structure of the proteins in the lens. They become a cloudy area over the lens that can expand and cause visual impairment in the long run.

There are different types of cataracts, although the most common condition appears to be age-related. But cataracts can also be congenital, form after an eye injury, and induced by another health condition like diabetes.

There can be several causes of cataract formation, but smoking is considered to be one of the leading risk factors. While it’s still unclear how smoking causes cataracts, several studies found the increased risks of age-related cataracts in smokers.

Another study, which observed data from more than 44,000 male subjects, found an association between smoking and a higher incidence of cataract extraction. Individuals who smoked more than 15 cigarettes a day were 42% more likely to need surgery to remove cataracts.

The research noted that the risk goes down to 21% after 20 years of quitting smoking, although it did not appear to go down to the same risk ratio as those who never smoked.


Are Smokers at a Higher Risk of Age-Related Macular Degeneration?


Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye disease mainly affecting central vision. While there’s no solid evidence yet that AMD leads to total blindness, it can still cause significant visual impairment.

Because the central vision allows us to see close-up objects clearly, AMD can make it harder to perform simple daily tasks like reading and cooking. Patients can also experience difficulties seeing objects ahead, making it harder to identify faces and drive.

Smoking is one of the few known risk factors for AMD, along with age, due to the natural degradation of the macula as people get older. In most cases, AMD may develop in people ages 50 and above.

However, available evidence indicates that smokers are four times more likely to get AMD and may develop the condition up to 10 years earlier compared to non-smokers.

There appear to be several pathways at which smoking increases the risk of a person having age-related macular degeneration. They include oxidative damage, retinal damage, and exposure to toxic chemicals from smoking.


How Does Smoking Cause Blindness?


Smoking is one of the major risk factors for leading eye diseases like AMD and cataracts, and this is one of the ways that this unhealthy habit can contribute to vision impairment or eventual blindness.

On top of increasing the risk of developing AMD and cataracts, smoking may also contribute to the faster progression of these conditions. Unfortunately, eye diseases like AMD might not have obvious symptoms until they are advanced.

It’s not surprising that, according to research, many of the AMD cases that lead to blindness or visual impairment are patients who have a history of smoking.

More evidence has established a link between smoking and vision loss. One cohort study concluded that current smokers have a significantly higher risk of developing glaucoma disorders than casual smokers and non-smokers.

Glaucoma, a group of eye diseases, occurs when the optic nerve behind the eyes is damaged. While there are available treatments for glaucoma, it’s still known to be the leading cause of vision loss or irreversible blindness.


How Do You Reverse Eye Damage From Smoking?


eye damage from smoking


While smoking is a major risk factor for cataracts and macular degeneration, there’s a little silver lining. Smoking is a modifiable risk factor, which means you can change it, unlike other factors like age and genetics.

Deciding to quit smoking can do wonders for your eye health. Some studies show quitting smoking can significantly reduce the risks of age-related macular degeneration.


Does eyesight improve after quitting smoking?


There are also more immediate benefits to your health after quitting smoking. Just by not smoking or avoiding exposure to second-hand smoke, you are keeping the toxic substances away from your body.

This may allow various body organs to repair themselves from the damage caused by tobacco smoke. Without nicotine and other harmful substances from smoking, you may improve your blood circulation, which could contribute to improved eyesight.


Can Cigarette Smoke Irritate Eyes?


There’s some evidence linking smoking and dry eyes or irritation. Smoke from cigarettes and other tobacco products can irritate the conjunctival mucosa, the thin membrane that protects the eyes.


Consider Other Ways to Support Your Smoke-Free Lifestyle


Quitting smoking is a difficult process for many, but the good news is that there are resources you can use to support your new health goals.

Your body will also need every help it can get as it repairs itself. You may want to consider health products that use research-backed formulations for healthier eyes, particularly for eye health.

Researchers pointed out that supplements using the formula of the AREDS2 Study may be considered, especially for reducing the risks of macular degeneration.


What Is the AREDS 2 Study?


The National Eye Institute sponsored the Age-Related Eye Diseases Studies (AREDS) to understand better the risk factors and how to treat age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and other eye disorders.

The first research run, known simply as AREDS, used a multivitamin formula containing beta-carotene.

The first research run, known simply as AREDS, used a multivitamin formula containing beta-carotene. While it had promising results, it was associated with a higher incidence of lung cancer in participants with a history of smoking.

Researchers replaced beta-carotene with lutein and zeaxanthin in the follow-up study, now known as AREDS 2. In its 10-year trial period, the new formula not only led to lower risks of lung cancer but also yielded better results in the overall lowering of AMD risks.

So in your journey of improving your eye health, especially if you have a smoking history, adding dietary supplements based on the AREDS 2 formula, like the iGenics by ScienceGenics can be extremely helpful.

Aside from having the AREDS 2 vitamins and minerals, iGenics also contains more antioxidants from natural sources like saffron, bilberry, and ginkgo biloba. It’s also vegan and doesn’t contain fillers like other ScienceGenics supplements.


Support Your Eye Health for a Brighter, Clearer Future


Quitting smoking is undeniably challenging — but it’s not impossible. Knowing the real dangers that smoking poses for your eyes and overall health, the first step to becoming a healthier you is to make the necessary changes to your lifestyle.

Apart from a balanced diet and regular physical activity, living a smoke-free life can improve your eyesight.

While the body has natural healing processes once you quit smoking, research-backed supplements can also be a great addition to your health goals. So support your eye health every way you can for a brighter future.


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John Riedl

Simply put that’s why I’ve gone down the health journey of research and creating health brands.

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