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How Smoking Could Be Putting Your Eyes at Risk

Posted on January 14, 2015

Smoking and Eye Health

We all know that smoking isn’t good for your health, but have you ever thought about how smoking can directly impact the health of your eyes? Smoking decreases your overall health and it can also contribute to a wide variety of eye health issues, many of which can put you in danger of vision loss. Do you need another reason to quit smoking and kick those cigarettes to the curb? You just found one. Take a look at all of the ways that smoking can put your eye health in harm’s way.

Age-Related Macular Degeneration

For those over 60, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the primary cause of vision loss and visual disability. This dangerous condition is especially prevalent in those who smoke – smokers and ex-smokers have twice the chance of developing AMD over individuals who have never smoked before.

So what exactly is AMD? The ‘macular’ in macular degeneration refers to the macula of the eye – the central part of the retina responsible for your forward-facing vision. Your retina is located at the back of your eye and composed of nerve tissue which senses light. When your macula becomes damaged, your ability to sense light in the central portion of your vision becomes impaired.

There are mainly two types of AMD:

  • Wet AMD: Macular degeneration that falls under the ‘wet’ spectrum usually involves the growth of irregular blood vessels beneath the macula. These blood vessels sometimes leak and spill blood and fluids beneath the macula. The excess liquid in your retina leads to a blockage of the macula which can distort your eyesight.
  • Dry AMD: The dry form of macular degeneration is quite different from its wet form. Rather than irregular blood vessels, dry AMD involves the distortion of your vision by yellow residue in your macula. As the deposits build up in your retina, your vision will diminish and can even be completely lost if the buildup results in the deterioration of the macula.

There is no cure for AMD, so it is highly recommended that you do everything in your power to prevent it from developing in the first place.


Cataracts are a very common eye condition that you’ve probably heard of before. In fact, more than half of all Americans above the age of 65 suffer from them. Cataracts are caused by a buildup of protein inside your eye which can eventually block your optic lens from receiving light, preventing your optic lens from relaying light back to your retina. As the protein deposits build up and are funneled towards the center of the eye by the growth of new cells, they form the ‘cataract’ which clouds your vision and prevents you from being able to see properly.

Some symptoms of cataracts include:

  • Cloudy, blurry vision
  • Changes in the perception of color
  • Difficulty driving at night
  • Visual glare during the day
  • Double vision
  • Newly developed nearsightedness

Smoking is a primary contributor to cataracts and can severely exacerbate their development. If your vision loss becomes significant, cataracts can be treated with a surgical process that replaces the damaged lens with an artificial one.

Diabetic Retinopathy

If you are living with diabetes, smoking can put you at risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. This eye disease is characterized by a weakening of the eye’s blood vessels. This can lead to fluid leakages, causing blurry eyesight and the loss of vision. Diabetic retinopathy can be worsened by high blood sugar levels which can lead to the growth of new, fragile blood vessels in the retina.

In some cases, retinopathy can lead to the swelling of the macula, leading to macular edema. If the macula swells, it can severely impair your vision – even causing blindness. To avoid the risk of diabetic retinopathy, keep your blood sugar levels within a safe, normal range. Smoking has been linked to an increased chance of developing diabetic retinopathy for those with diabetes, so it is in your best interest to quit as soon as possible.

If you have any more questions about how smoking can impact your eye health or how to improve your vision, give us a shout! We would love the help you out.

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