Smoking and Eye Disease
smoking is directly linked to many adverse health effects, including high blood
pressure, heart disease and cancer. Smoking is also linked to specific eye
How does smoking affect the eyes?
who smoke cigarettes are at increased risk for developing cataracts, a
clouding of the naturally clear lens of the eye. Cataracts cause a variety of
vision problems, including blurry distance vision, sensitivity to glare, loss
of contrast and difficulty seeing colors. When glasses or magnifiers are no
longer helpful for someone with cataracts, or when cataracts develop in both
eyes, surgery is the only option.
smoking is also one of the preventable risk factors for age-related macular
degeneration (AMD). Studies have shown that current smokers and ex-smokers
are more likely to develop AMD than people who have never smoked. AMD has two
forms: dry (called atrophic) AMD and wet (called exudative) AMD. In dry AMD,
your retina gradually thins. There is no proven cure for this type of
degenerative disease. In wet AMD, new blood vessels grow in the retina, leaking
blood or fluid, damaging the macula, the part of the retina responsible for
your central vision. The two types of treatment currently available for
specific forms of wet AMD are standard laser surgery and photodynamic therapy,
both of which may stabilize the disease.
people with high blood-sugar levels, some studies suggest that smoking may be
linked to diabetic retinopathy, or damage to the blood vessels in the
retina. The optic nerve is also
susceptible to damage from smoking.
People with poor diets who smoke heavily and drink excessive amounts of
alcohol run the risk of developing optic nerve-related vision loss
(called tobacco-alcohol amblyopia). Certain optic nerve problems run in
families (called Leber's hereditary optic neuropathy). People with this condition who smoke have
increased risk of vision loss. In some patients with thyroid disease (called
Graves' disease) who also have eye involvement, smoking can cause the eyes to
become worse, with vision loss possible.
who do not produce enough tears to keep their eyes comfortably lubricated have
a condition called dry eye. For these people, smoking is a significant
irritant, worsening the symptoms of scratchiness, stinging or burning of the
eyes, and excess tearing from irritation.
does smoking affect fetal/infant eye health?
have also shown a strong association between smoking during pregnancy and the
risk of invasive meningitis during early childhood. The risk of bacterial
meningitis is five times higher among children whose mothers smoked during
pregnancy. In addition to other severe health problems, childhood meningitis
can cause inflammation of the cornea and pink eye. Smoking during
pregnancy is also associated with low birth weight and premature birth.
And finally, oxygen therapy given to sustain the lives of premature infants can
cause retinopathy of prematurity, causing permanent vision loss or
There are resources to help you quit smoking.
are numerous community organizations committed to helping people quit smoking.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) offers smoking cessation classes around the
U.S. Contact ACS at 1-800-ACS-2345 or online at www.cancer.org
<http://www.cancer.org> to find the chapter near you.