Why Smoking Can Be Harmful To Your Eye Health

According to The Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, 49% of men and 34% of women in South Africa are smokers. Though the detrimental effects of smoking to your overall health is well-documented, many South Africans are unaware of the damage smoking does to arguably your most important organ: your eyes. Quitting smoking is most likely to prevent the following eye diseases as well as disorders.

Infant Eye Disease

Smoking is highly discouraged for pregnant women, as it transmits dangerous toxins to the placenta and may potentially cause harm to the unborn baby. Complications include strabismus (crossed eyes), as well as the potential of an underdeveloped optic nerve which can lead to blindness in children.


Uveitis is an inflammation of the eye’s middle layer, known as the uvea. This disease is very serious, and may result in complete loss of vision. This condition mainly causes harm in the vital structure of the eye, which includes the retina and the iris. Such extensive damage to the eye increases the likelihood of glaucoma, cataracts and retinal detachment.

Macular Degeneration

Smoking may also lead to age-related macular degeneration which affects the center of the retina. The retina is responsible for our sharp, central vision which is needed for everyday tasks. ‘Blind spots’ are caused by macular degeneration and this severely affects the central vision. Studies have shown that smokers are more at risk of having macular degeneration than an average older-aged adult who doesn’t smoke. The risk of macular degeneration decreases rapidly when a person quits smoking at any age.


The cause of clouding in the eye’s natural lens is known as cataracts, and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world. Studies have shown that smokers double their chances of forming cataracts and the more a person smokes, the higher the risk.

Diabetic Retinopathy

This disease damages the blood vessels of the retina and results in vision loss over time. Research has shown that most people aged 40 and above with diabetes have this disease, which may result in damage in the eye. Less smoking – to no smoking at all – may be the best remedy for people who are diabetic as it could reduce the risk of obtaining the disease and the extensive damage that may be caused over time.

The probability of developing any of the above conditions can be significantly decreased by taking that brave step to love your eyes enough to quit smoking. Regular eye checkups are recommended, as early detection often results in effective treatment. If you experience any symptoms that lead you to suspect you may have any of the above conditions, or just want to find out more about how to take care of your eyes, Vision Works strongly recommends that you visit your trusted optometrist in order to receive the proper care your eyes deserve.

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