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How does smoking cause cataracts

Smoking Cataract

Smoking can lead to long-term adverse influences on the body, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, but it’s also true that smoking can lead to severe eye disorders and permanent sight loss. Knowing the fact that smoking is hazardous to health, why do people still get engrossed in this habit and what different eye disorders it can cause? It’s because of lack of awareness about the impact of smoking impacts on eyesight. 

Smoking advances the chances of age-related eye problems like macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy, and, in many cases, it leads to dry eye syndrome.

Cataracts are the most common eye disorder and the primary cause of visual impairment worldwide. They are responsible for about 40% of cases of blindness and are believed to impact around 17.01 million individuals who are blind. Cataracts are already accountable for nearly two-thirds of blindness cases in India, and cigarette smoking has helped to increase their number.

Which part of the eyes gets impacted due to smoking ?

When a person smokes cigarettes, it can damage crucial parts of the eyes required for maintaining clear eyesight and vision. This damage can cloud your vision, lessen your field of vision, or force you to lose your eyesight entirely. 

As per studies smoking cigarettes can affect the retina which is a delicate, light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye. Similarly, smoking can affect the lens, which allows light to pass through  the retina and allows the eye to focus on objects at varying distances. It also impacts the macula, i.e. the most sensitive part of the retina and the part of the eye that supplies sharp vision.

What are the symptoms of eye problems caused by smoking?

Here are some symptoms of eye issues related to smoking:

  • Blurred or distorted vision.
  • Dryness, burning, or itching sensations.
  • Increased sensitivity to light.
  • Difficulty seeing in low light.
  • Vision loss or dark spots in the visual field.


Smoking Doubles Cataract Risk Early

It’s true that most of the people who smoke include youngsters, and hence, they double their risk of cataracts at an earlier age. It has been found that through oxidation, smoking can alter the cells of the lens. Additionally, accumulation of harmful metals like cadmium in the lenses 

is known to interfere with cellular function and exacerbate oxidative damage. This accumulation further accelerates the degeneration of lens proteins and contributes to the formation of cataracts.

This causes blurred vision which eventually matures if not treated and causes other eye complications. Smokers have a significantly higher risk of developing cataracts than non-smokers. In one study, it was found that people who smoke have double the risk of developing cataracts, which further increases when they smoke.

Other Smoking Eye Complications

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) starts with losing central vision, making reading and seeing fine details difficult. Over time, vision loss can become significant. AMD are of two types “dry” and “wet.” Dry AMD is the most common, characterized by fatty deposits forming under t-sensing cells in the retina. Vision loss in dry AMD usually progresses slowly.

In the case of wet macular degeneration, blood vessels under the retina start to leak or rupture, modifying vision and causing scar tissue to form. Although wet AMD is less common, it causes faster and more severe vision impairment.

Glaucoma: Glaucoma involves the gradual breakdown of the cells that compose the optic nerve, which transmits visual information to the brain. As these nerve cells die, vision is gradually lost, typically starting with peripheral vision. Often, loss is not noticeable until significant nerve damage has occurred, which is why up to half of people with glaucoma may be unaware they have the condition.

Reducing Cataract Risk: Quit Smoking and Boost Antioxidants

People who have been smoking regularly and want to avoid eye problems caused by smoking do not need to lose courage already. Many studies have found that quitting smoking reduces the risk of eye diseases.

Those who smoke a lot of cigarettes daily  have reported a higher  number of highly reactive, unstable free radicals that can damage fat and protein which cause deposits to form on the eye’s lens and lead to the development of cataracts. To cope up with cases if  a person starts consuming Antioxidants in their regular diet it can help them to neutralize free radicals as  smoking decreases the level of antioxidants thereby increasing the number of free radicals.

Research has consistently shown that smokers have a significantly higher risk of developing cataracts compared to non-smokers. Studies indicate that the risk of cataract formation is approximately doubled in individuals who smoke, and this risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The longer a person smokes, the greater their risk of developing cataracts at an earlier age.

 Many studies have revealed that the risk of cataract building declines, especially after smoking cessation, highlighting the importance of smoking cessation programs and public health initiatives aimed at reducing smoking rates.


In conclusion, smoking is a significant contributor to cataract development through mechanisms involving oxidative stress and the collection of harmful substances in the eye’s lens. Reducing smoking rates through cessation efforts can remarkably lower the incidence of cataracts and improve overall eye health.

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