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Smoking and Dry Eye

Did you know that smoking can increase your risk of developing dry eyes?

Smoking is harmful because cigarettes can damage our bodies and increase our risk of health conditions.[1]

The eyes are no exception to the damage caused, and you might have noticed that cigarette smoke can make your eyes itch or burn.[2]

For sufferers of Dry Eye Disease, this reaction can be even worse. In fact, there are a number of scientific studies which have concluded that smoking could increase the risk of Dry Eyes.[3]


What is Dry Eye?

Dry Eye Disease is a common eye condition that causes the ocular surface to become dry and irritated, either due to an increase in tear evaporation, or a decrease in tear production. It affects one in four people in the UK alone and can be caused by multiple factors.[4] Smoking is one of these risk factors, which we’ll discuss further later on in this blog.


What are the symptoms of eye dryness?

There are many different symptoms of Dry Eye which can include itchy, sore, gritty, blurry, red or light sensitive eyes, to name a few.[5] Eye dryness can be uncomfortable and impact the well-being of people who suffer from the condition. Therefore, it’s important to learn what the main causes are, so you can find a treatment option that works.


What is the main cause of Dry Eye?

As we’ve mentioned previously, there are a number of different factors associated with Dry Eye Syndrome. However, the condition is ultimately triggered if your eyes don’t make enough tears or if your tears dry up quickly.[5] Some of the factors that could increase your likelihood of developing dry eyes are:

  • Being 50 or over
  • Wearing contact lenses
  • Looking at computer screens for too long without regular breaks
  • Central heating or air conditioning
  • Cold, windy, dry or dusty weather
  • Smoking or drinking alcohol [5]

For more information about Dry Eye Syndrome and how it’s causes, our explanatory blog can help. You can read this here: Everything You Need to Know About Dry Eye


Why smoking aggravates Dry Eye

When we blink, the glands in our eyelids coat the ocular surface with a layer of tears. This protects them from dust, debris and drying out. The many harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke can break down this layer, leading to insufficient tears, causing the eye’s surface to become dry and irritated. Smoking can even change the composition of your tears over time, which can lead to further Dry Eye symptoms.[6]

In addition, the harmful metals found in cigarettes can not only cause damage to the ocular surface, but can also severely affect the blood vessels that supply it with much-needed nutrients.[7]


Can vaping cause Dry Eye?

Vaping is something that’s become more popular in recent years. It’s often seen as a safer alternative as it doesn’t contain any tobacco products. However, the vape liquid is full of other chemicals which can be just as harmful. The vapour itself is an eye irritant, which can cause inflammation in the eye tissue and ocular surface, along with the disruption of tear production. Over time, this can lead to Dry Eye Syndrome.


Mouth breathes out white smoke from metal vape, in hand.


What does long-term smoking do to the eyes?

As we’ve previously mentioned, smoking long term can lead to Dry Eye Syndrome, but it can also cause other eye-related conditions. One of these is Macular Degeneration which is an eye disease that affects your central vision. Another is cataracts, a condition which eventually can lead to loss of eyesight.[8]


Can eye damage from smoking be reversed?

There is currently no way to reverse the damage to your eyes from smoking. However, by reducing the amount you smoke or quitting altogether, you can significantly reduce the risk to your eyes.[9] Other healthy habits that can improve your symptoms consist of eating a vitamin-rich diet and protecting your eyes with wraparound glasses in harsh weather.

For more lifestyle tips to help Dry Eye, read our blog: 6 Lifestyle Tips to Help with Dry Eye


How do you stop dry eyes from smoking?

Ultimately, if you are experiencing symptoms of Dry Eye Disease due to smoking, the most effective solution would be to consider significantly reducing consumption or quitting. Using our eye drops and specialist eye gels can help to eliminate discomfort and ease symptoms as well. You can browse these here: Eye Drops for Dry Eyes

For advice about quitting smoking, and other smoking-related health concerns, please visit the NHS website here: NHS Stop Smoking Services


How can I help ease symptoms of Dry Eye?

Smoking is just one potential factor that can cause or worsen symptoms of Dry Eye Disease and we recommend that you seek the advice of a medical professional to better understand your condition. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, there are a variety of treatment options, from ocular lubricants, to daily lifestyle changes that you could begin to implement.


Women with brown hair puts eye drop into her eye. Pulls eyelid down with other hand. She wears a stripy shirt and a plant and frame can be seen in the background.


3-step treatment plan

A 3 step treatment plan can help to effectively manage your Dry Eye, and avoid painful flare-ups.

Step 1: Apply a heated compress, such as MeiboPatch®, to unblock your meibomian glands and relieve your eyes.[10]

Step 2: Cleanse and wipe away the melted oil blocking your glands, as well as any built-up debris with a cleanser like Naviblef ®, which is specially designed to reduce discomfort.[11]

Step 3: Incorporate an effective eye drop into your daily routine, such as VisuXL® Gel. A single drop provides 12 hours of protection, so one application during the day is enough. Apply it when you wake up and just before you head off to sleep.[12]

For more information on the 3-step treatment plan, visit our blog: 3-Step Treatment Plan

Remember, if you’re struggling with Dry Eye Disease, or worried about smoking-related conditions, please talk to your GP.

Alcohol can also cause dry eyes. Read more here: Dry Eye and Alcohol


In most cases, the best way to treat dry eyes, Also known as dry eye syndrome, is to use eye gel or eye drops.

VisuXL Gel® is a preservative-free smart gel lubricant for dry eye syndrome. It provides comfort in a bottle with it’s long-lasting lubrication properties giving 12-hour dosing with just one drop and is suitable for both day and night use.

VisuXL® is a preservative-free eye drop lubricant for dry eye syndrome. Due to its unique ingredients, VisuXL® will help you recover from eye surgery, an injury or persistent damaging dry eye.

VisuEvo® is a preservative-free eye drop that prevents excessive evaporation of the tear film. Its unique formula contains omega-3 essential fatty acids, Vitamins A and D and ultra-filtered phospholipids that facilitate tear film presentation and control evaporation.

All three products are contact lens-friendly and can be used for 180 days after opening.

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  1. NHS UK , ‘What are the health risks of smoking?’, 16/09/22. Accessed February 2022.
  2. Dr Aizman Empire Retina Consultants, ‘The Effects that Smoke Can Have on Your Eyes’. Accessed May 2023.
  3. Li Xu, Wei Zhang, Xiao-Yu Zhu, Tao Suo, Xian-Qun Fan, and Yao Fu, ‘Smoking and the Risk of Dry Eye: a Meta-Analysis’, Int J Ophthalmol. 2016; 9(10): 1480–1486. Accessed February 2022.
  4. Garty, David, ‘Why Are My Eyes so Scratchy and Dry?’, The Wimpole Eye Clinic. Accessed Feb 2022.
  5. NHS UK, ‘Dry Eyes’, 06/12/21. Accessed February 2022.
  6. Morgan Griffin, R. ‘Smoking and Dry Eye’, WebMD, 05/05/21. Accessed May 2023.
  7. Optical Express, ‘The Shocking Effects Smoking Has On Eyes’, 16/07/20. Accessed February 2022.
  8. Macular Society, ‘Smoking and sight loss’. Accessed April 2023.
  9. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 05/05/22 ‘Vision Loss, Blindness, and Smoking’, 05/05/22. Accessed April 2023.
  10. MeiboPatch® Instructions for Use (IFU). Accessed May 2023.
  11. Naviblef® Instructions for Use (IFU). Accessed May 2023.
  12. VisuXL® Instructions for Use (IFU). Accessed May 2023.
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