Leader Heights Eye Center, 309 Leader Heights Road, York, PA 17402 • Phone: (717) 747-5430

See our eye education section! If you are seeking cataract surgery we have a wide array of different educational videos just for you.

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment please fill our eye care website form and one of our staff will contact you.

Smoking and Eye Disease

Tobacco smoking is directly linked to many adverse health effects, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and cancer. Smoking is also linked to eye disease.

How does smoking affect the eye?

People 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, a loss of contrast sensitivity, and difficulty seeing colors. When eyeglasses or magnifiers are no longer helpful for someone with cataracts, or when cataracts develop in both eyes, surgery is the only option.

Tobacco smoking is also a huge preventable risk factor 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. The AMD that smokers get tends to be more severe than in non-smokers. Permanent vision loss, often severe, may occur with both types of AMD, so an attempt at prevention is of utmost importance.

Some studies suggest that in people with high blood sugar levels, 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”). Some patients with thyroid disease (called Graves’ disease) may also have eye involvement; and smoking may cause their eyes to become worse, both as visual loss and inflammation.

People 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.

Smoking can cause impaired circulation to the eyes, in various forms. Some types can cause blindness, such as artery and vein occlusions.

How does smoking affect fetal and infant eye health?

Smoking during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight and premature birth. Oxygen therapy given to sustain the lives of premature infants can cause retinopathy of prematurity, causing permanent vision loss or blindness in the infant.

There are resources to help you quit smoking.

There are numerous community organizations committed to helping people quit smoking. The American Cancer Society (ACS) offers smoking cessation classes across the United States. Contact ACS at 800.ACS.2345 or online at www.cancer.org to find the chapter near you.

Back to Top