Smoking and Dry Eye

Smoking is harmful, because cigarettes contain many chemicals that can damage our bodies.1 

The eyes are no exception, and you might have noticed that cigarette smoke can make your eyes itch or burn. 1 

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. 2


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.3 

There are many different symptoms of Dry Eye which can include itchy, sore, gritty, blurry, red or light sensitive eyes, to name a few. 4


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.5 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.6 Smoking can even change the composition of your tears over time, which can lead to further Dry Eye symptoms. 7


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.8


How can I help ease symptoms of Dry Eye? 


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. 


For advice about quitting smoking, and other smoking-related health concerns, please visit the NHS website. 


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, a to daily lifestyle changes that you could begin to implement. 9


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.


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


Step 3: Incorporate an effective eye drop into your daily routine, such as VisuXL® Gel. A single drop provides 12 hours of protection, meaning you only need to able application once when you wake up and just before you head off to sleep. 10 11


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


For more advice on how to treat dry, itchy eyes, visit our treatment page.


Alcohol can also cause dry eyes, read more.


Find out which lifestyle choices can help dry eye sufferers 




  1. NHS UK,, Accessed Feb 2022.
  2. 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.
  3. Garty, David, ‘Why Are My Eyes so Scratchy and Dry?’, The Wimpole Eye Clinic,,on%20a%20long%2Dterm%20basis, Accessed Feb 2022
  4. NHS UK,, Accessed Feb 2022.
  5. Griffin, Morgan. ‘Smoking and Dry Eye’,, Accessed Feb 2022.
  6. Jyothi Thomas, George P. Jacob, Lekha Abraham, and Babu Noushad, ‘The effect of smoking on the ocular surface and the precorneal tear film’, Australas Med J. 2012; 5(4): 221–226.
  7. Griffin, Morgan. ‘Smoking and Dry Eye’,, Accessed Feb 2022.
  8. ‘The Shocking Effects Smoking Has On Eyes’, Optical Express,, Accessed Feb 2022.
  1. ‘Chronic Dry Eye’, Healthy Women’,, Accessed Feb 2022. 
  2. VisuXL Instructions for Use (IFU).
  3. Brancato R, Fiore T, Papucci L, et al. Concomitant Effect of Topical Ubiquinone Q10 and Vitamin E to Prevent Keratocyte Apoptosis After Excimer Laser Photoablation in Rabbits. J Refract Surg 2002; 18: 135-9.


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