Stoptober - how does smoking affect your eyesight?


Every October, the NHS runs a Public Health England campaign to encourage smokers to quit – Stoptober. There are many health risks for those who smoke, which I’m sure most of you are aware of (e.g. the risk of heart attack, heart disease, lung cancer and many other health conditions). But did you know it can affect your eye health too?

How does smoking affect the eyes?

Not many smokers are aware that they are twice as likely to lose their sight compared to non-smokers. Smoking can cause and worsen a number of eye conditions, some of which can lead to permanent loss of vision.

Source:  NHS

There are a few health reasons why smoking is bad for your eyes which we will explain below:

  • Tobacco smoke – there are harmful particles in the smoke which can cause an irritant to your eyes.
  • Cigarette smoke – certain parts of the smoke can cause the ciliary arteries (in your eyes) to restrict blood flow to the eyes
  • Nicotine and carbon monoxide – these can cause fatty deposits in the blood vessels

What eye conditions can smoking cause?

There are some major eye conditions that can be caused or made worse by cigarette smoking, and it is important that you are aware of these, especially as eye health isn’t always the first thought of the effects of smoking. Here are a couple of these eye health conditions:

  • Age-related macular degeneration – Cigarette/tobacco smoke can have harmful effects on the macula (the part of the eye that picks up the fine detail) and cause a build-up of waste products in the eyes. This can then cause blurred vision, particularly in the central vision, which makes it difficult to read or watch things (near vision activities).
  • Cataracts – This is when there is a thickening of the lens can cause blurry vision, double vision, changes in seeing colours and /or difficulty with bright lights and glare. The heavy metals in the harmful smoke accelerate the risk of cataracts.

Other common eye conditions that can be affected by smoking include dry eye syndrome (smoke can irritate the eyes and result in insufficient lubrication of the eyes) and problems with contact lenses (again, the smoke could cause irritation to the eyes).

Passive smoking, i.e. being in the vicinity of someone who smokes, such as a friend or family member or smoking during pregnancy, can also mean that you can suffer these symptoms with long-term exposure to secondhand smoke even if you don’t smoke yourself.

Effectiveness of smoking intervention

The Stoptober campaign from the NHS and other physical health initiatives for quitting smoking can help smokers quit and reap the health benefits and financial gains too! Quitting smoking can help with lung function and oxygen levels and make positive changes to your body…including your eyes. It also, obviously, reduces the chances of the above eye conditions.

Having your eyes tested

Regular eye exams with Opticall can ensure that any eye conditions caused by smoking can be diagnosed and monitored. Keep your eyes healthy by booking an eye test with us on 0208 8998 4228.