Have you ever wondered how smoking effects your eyes?

The adverse and often fatal health effects of cigarette smoke are all too familiar. You can’t avoid the adverts showing the deterioration of the lungs, heart disease and cancer. The effects that cigarette smoke has on your eyes however, are less well known, but just as devastating.


Cataracts result in the clouding of the eyes natural lens, and whilst cataracts can be treated, they are a major cause of sight loss. Other factors can lead to cataracts; however, studies have shown that people who smoke cigarettes are twice as likely to develop cataracts.

Macular Degeneration

The centre of the retina is responsible for sharp, central vision, allowing us to see fine details; vital for activities such as driving and reading.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affects the centre of the retina and causes “blind spots” and heavily impacts central vision. People who smoke cigarettes have a much higher risk of developing AMD, compared with people that have never smoked.

Smoking is one of the biggest, controllable risk factors associated with AMD. Quitting smoking at any age can significantly reduce your risk of developing the condition.

Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetic retinopathy is a very serious condition associated with diabetes. Retinopathy affects the blood vessels of the retina and can result in complete vision loss.

Smoking significantly increases your risk of suffering diabetic retinopathy and also raises your blood sugar levels making your diabetes overall more difficult to control.


The Uvea is the eyes middle layer and plays a vital role in the supplying of nutrients and supporting the metabolic needs of the iris, ciliary body, retina, sclera and lens. When the uvea becomes inflamed (uveitis) it can cause serious problems, resulting in a total loss of vision.

Uveitis can harm vital structures in the eye and can lead to complications such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal detachment. Smoking cigarettes significantly increases the risk of developing this condition, with some studies showing a 2.2 times greater risk.

Dry eyes

Although not a direct threat to sight loss, dry eyes can cause irritation, redness and the sensation of a foreign body.

As tobacco smoke is an irritant, this can exacerbate the symptoms of dry eyes, even for a second-hand smoker and is particularly bad for contact lens wearers.

Infant eye disease

Smoking whilst pregnant is extremely dangerous for both mother and baby. It can transmit dangerous toxins to the placenta, potentially harming the unborn child. Smoking increases the chances of many foetal and infant eye disorders including strabismus (squint) and underdevelopment of the optic nerve, which is the leading cause of blindness in children.

Smoking whilst pregnant also increases the chance of giving birth prematurely. Premature babies are at a higher risk of developing eye problems compared with full-term babies.

If you are considering quitting smoking then your local G.P. is on hand to guide and advise you. If you are concerned about your eye health, or are experiencing problems with your eyesight then contact G.T. Harvey and partners and book in for an eye examination. Contact us on 0191 232 7615, use our online booking form or call in to our practice.