The effects of smoking are well-documented. From heart disease to emphysema to throat and lung cancer, tobacco use has been connected to many significant conditions. However, one area that deserves additional attention is the link between smoking and diminished eye health. How can smoking affect your eyes, and is vaping a suitable replacement?
Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals, including many irritants that can leave your eyes red, burning, or constantly creating tears. Tobacco smoke in particular can break down the lipid layer of the tear film that acts as a barrier against the environment. As a result, dry eye can occur, and not only for the smoker. Second-hand smoke can also cause eye irritation to those around you.
Smokers are more likely to develop damage to their retinas, including age-related macular degeneration. This is due to the reduction of lutein (a naturally-occurring antioxidant found in the macula and retina) and oxygen in the eye. In addition, smokers are also at a higher risk of developing glaucoma by producing free radicals that affect the optic nerve. Both of these conditions can drastically reduce vision in patients.
Dr. Kashyap Kansupada, a CEENTA ophthalmologist at our Belmont and Huntersville locations, elaborates on another condition brought on by smoking that can inhibit vision. "Additionally, cigarette use is known to increase inflammation in patients prone to sight-threatening conditions inside the eye, called uveitis."
Vaping and e-cigarettes have become a popular alternative to smoking by providing nicotine through a heated liquid rather than tobacco. While the research into vaping is not as extensive as the decades of tobacco studies, the results so far indicate that this form of smoking has its own drawbacks for eye health. Similar to tobacco use, vaping can create oxidative stress in the eyes that leads to glaucoma and cataracts. Constant use can also affect moisture around the eyes, especially for those who wear contact lenses.
Dr. Kansupada has advice for those looking to quit tobacco and vape use. "We understand how tough it is for smokers to stop. The best way in my experience, along with the advise of your primary care provider, is to go cold turkey and know that the first 1-2 weeks will not be easy, especially if others in the home still smoke. Placing the money you would spent on cigarettes into a jar and then buying something of value to you after cessation can also be a nice reward along with better general and eye health for yourself--and those around you.”
Traditional tobacco use and newer smoking trends continue to demonstrate negative side effects for your overall health, including your eyes. If you have constant dry eye, reduced vision, uveitis, or cataracts, schedule an appointment with Dr. Kansupada at our Belmont or Huntersville offices today to experience award-winning eye care that just makes sense.
This blog is for informational purposes only. For specific medical questions, please consult your doctor. New patients can make appointments online with our eye doctors in North and South Carolina. Current patients can also make appointments through myCEENTAchart with physicians they have already seen.
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