Every May, the National Eye Institute (NEI) encourages Americans to make their eye health a priority and informs them about steps they can take to protect their vision. As optometrists, we help the NEI spread the word about steps patients can take to make their vision last a lifetime during each exam! Some of the ways you can take care of your vision include yearly eye exams with dilation, wearing sunglasses to protect from UV rays, using protective eyewear, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. One of the biggest lifestyle factors that can affect your vision is tobacco use. The World Health Organization recognizes May 31 as World No Tobacco Day. This May, make sure you’re aware how smoking affects your health and those around you!

Most people know that smoking increases their risks for heart disease and lung cancer, but did you know that smoking could lead to vision loss? Studies show smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and dry eye syndrome. Studies show that patients who smoke face the following risks:

  • Three to four times more likely to develop macular degeneration than non-smokers.

  • Three times the risk of developing cataracts than non-smokers.

  • Twice as likely to experience dry eye than non-smokers.

  • At higher risk for getting diabetes and diabetic complications including retinopathy, heart disease, stroke, vascular disease, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot problems, and many others.

Not only are you at higher risk for systemic and ocular complications stemming from tobacco smoking, but those around you are at higher risk as well. Nonsmokers living with smokers almost double their risk of developing macular degeneration. In addition to increasing risk for eye diseases, second hand smoke can cause lung cancer and even has been linked to depression.

Are you ready to quit smoking? Visit https://smokefree.gov/ to find tools and tips on how to quit smoking. Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement therapies like chewing gum and transdermal patches that deliver a controlled dose of nicotine to relieve withdrawal symptoms while you try to quit, and medications including Chantix® and Zyban® that are FDA-approved non-nicotine medications that have helped people quit smoking.

And if you or a family member smoke, please make sure you schedule an annual eye exam  to check for any complications.


Sarah Blackwelder, OD

OCOS Public Relations



1. https://www.health.ny.gov/prevention/tobacco_control/smoking_can_lead_to_vision_loss_or_blindness.htm

2. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/cigarettes-other-tobacco-products