Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Ipoh Echo’s EYE HEALTH series continues with Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S.S. GILL talking to us about the effects of smoking.

The Platters have a lovely song titled “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” which was recorded in 1958 and became a number one hit in the U.S. and the U.K. The chorus reflects the loss of a lovely flame described as that “tearful feeling when smoke gets in the eyes”. The song was a classic! On a more serious note, smoking does more than just cause teary eyes. Several serious eye disorders have been linked to smoking.

Passive smoking is the smoke that is inhaled by the people who sit around a smoker. It is common knowledge that this is more dangerous than the smoke inhaled by the smoker. Cigarette smoke contains thousands of ingredients including cancer-causing substances (carcinogens) and numerous agents that cause inflammation. There is mounting evidence that it has serious negative effects on the eyes.

Here is a brief review of the effects of smoking on our eyes.


Children who are exposed to the smoke from their cigarette smoking parents (passive smokers) are more prone to eye allergies. The conjunctiva of the eyes become inflamed (swollen) due to the exposure to cigarette smoke which is an irritant. Many parents who smoke do not take this seriously.


The macula of the eye is the most sensitive part of the back of the eye (nerve), The macula is responsible for the fine vision required for the many daily activities of the day. When the macula gets affected by this condition, known as Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), it can result in serious loss of central vision.


Smoking increases the risk of cataract formation. A cataract is a condition whereby the crystalline lens in the eye becomes cloudy and causes poor vision. The risk of cataract formation is 3-4 times more in an individual who is a smoker. Smoking releases a substance known as free radicals. These free radicals cause damage to the cells of the body including the eyes and lens, hence the cataract formation.


Smoking is known to cause inflammation to occur in the pigmented part of the eye called uvea (uveitis). The risk of such inflammation is approximately two times more with its problematic symptoms of glare, photophobia, eye redness, tearing and blurring vision. Uveitis is also difficult to treat and may become chronic.

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