Think About Your Eyesight If You Need Another Reason To Quit Smoking

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By Roshni Kanabar, Optometrist and Clinical Advisor at the Association of Optometrists

Roshni Kanabar

Roshni Kanabar

Everyone recognises that smoking is harmful to our health, it increases our risk of cancer and damages our heart, but do you know that smoking can cause sight loss as well?

Despite this, people rarely think of their eyes when considering the ill effects of lighting up. There are almost seven million smokers in the UK, yet only a fifth of the population draw the connection.

As an optometrist, I know that smokers are four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, up to 10 years prematurely, and that they are twice as likely to develop conditions which can lead to other sight threatening eye disease, such as glaucoma and cataracts. Which is why I rank quitting smoking the single most important thing you can do to protect your eye health.

Hand stubbed out cigarette in a transparent ashtray on wooden table;

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Smoking and eye disease   

Smokers are at increased risk of a number eye conditions including:

1 Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)

AMD is the leading cause of blindness in the UK and affects the central part of your vision which can make everyday activities, such as reading or even recognising faces, difficult or impossible. There are two types of AMD – wet AMD, which can often be treated with injections in the eye if caught early enough, and dry AMD, for which there is currently very little effective treatment.

2 Cataracts

When the lens inside your eye becomes cloudy it is called cataract. Smoking doubles your risk of developing cataracts and often at an earlier age.

Ophthalmologist In Exam Room With Mature Woman Sitting In Chair Looking Into Eye Test machine

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3 Uveitis

Smokers are at least twice as likely to develop uveitis – a condition where the middle layer of the eyeball becomes inflamed, causing eye pain and changes to your vision. The condition can also lead to secondary conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts.

4 Diabetic retinopathy

If you suffer from diabetes, smoking increases your risk of developing retinopathy, where the blood vessels in the retina at the back of the eye become damaged. This often causes blurred vision and dark spots and can lead to permanent loss of vision.

Where to get help

Concept photo of a woman smoking a cigarette.;

Pic: Shutterstock

For help to stop you can get support from your local healthy living opticians and the NHS, which provides a free personal quit plan

Whether you are a smoker or not, it’s important to visit your optometrist regularly to have a full eye health check – so any conditions can be identified and treated early.

To find out more visit

Cheerful lady having eye examination in oculist office;

Pic: Shutterstock

About the Association of Optometrists

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is the leading representative membership organisation for optometrists in the UK. We support over 82% of practising optometrists, to fulfil their professional roles to protect the nation’s eye health. For more information, visit


Moira Chisholm

I'm the Health Editor on My Weekly and am always interested to hear what's new in this fascinating field. I also deal with the gardening, shopping pages, general features, our website content and the Ask Helen problem page. I have a special interest in Christmas content because I'm on the team for Your Best Ever Christmas Magazine, too!