Seeing Through the Smoke: Protecting Your Eye Health from the Hazards of Smoking

When “smoke gets in your eyes” – as the vintage song goes – it can do worse harm than causing irritation and tears. According to the FDA, damage from smoking can make your vision cloudy, reduce your field of vision, or even cause you to lose your eyesight completely. That’s why the doctors at Atlantic Eye support National No Smoking Day on March 13th, as a reminder that not smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke, is so important to maintaining clear eyesight and vision.

But what about vaping? According to the American Academy of Ophthalmologists, smoke from vaping contains chemicals that carry known and unknown risks for the eyes. Studies have shown that using both cigarettes and e-cigarettes causes eye symptoms that are worse and more frequent than using only one product.

Let’s consider some of the eye problems made worse by smoking, vaping, or a combination of the two:

  • Dry eye. Smoking with dry eye will make your eyes more likely to feel scratchy, sting, burn or be red.
  • Cataracts. If you smoke, you are at increased risk for getting cataracts, which cause blurry vision and make colors look faded. Cataracts are removed with surgery.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). With AMD, you lose your central vision and cannot see fine details. There are treatments for AMD, but there is no cure. Studies show that smokers and ex-smokers are more likely to get AMD than people who never smoked.
  • Diabetic retinopathy. Smokers who also have diabetes are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. For more on preventing this serious eye disease, see
  • Optic nerve problems.  The optic nerve connects the eye to the brain. Damage to this nerve can lead to blindness.
  • Glaucoma. Smoking can increase risk factors that can lead to glaucoma – another eye disease that affects the optic nerve.
  • Uveitis. The uvea is the middle layer of the eye wall. Uveitis is when this layer becomes irritated, causing a red eye, pain, and vision problems.
  • Graves’ disease. One of the symptoms of Graves’ disease is bulging eyes. Smokers who have this thyroid disorder risk having their eye condition get worse. They can also lose vision.

It’s clear that smoking cigarettes and/or vaping can increase your risk for worsening eye diseases that may lead to vision loss and blindness. At Atlantic Eye, we’re cheerleaders for National No Smoking Day! Today and every day, all year long, quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke are some of the best investments you can make in your long-term eye health.