6 Ways That Smoking and Vaping Damages Your Eyesight
Research has shown smoking and vaping can increase your risk of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, dry eyes, diabetic retinopathy and optic nerve damage.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the link: smoking – vaping – eye health, and discuss what you can do to protect your eyes from the negative effects of these habits.
Eye diseases you risk by smoking.
Smokers have a 30-40% increased risk of developing cataracts compared to non-smokers. There are limited studies for vaping, but inhalation of any smoke or vapour is known to damage the eyes.
Cigarettes and e-cigarettes can cause inflammation and oxidative stress in your eyes, damaging the lens and leading to the development of cataracts. They can also decrease blood flow to the eye, further contributing to cataract development. The treatment for cataracts involves a safe and routine procedure whereby we replace a cataract clouded lens with an intraocular one.
Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)
AMD is a leading cause of blindness in older adults. We don’t fully understand the exact mechanisms by which smoking and vaping contribute to the development of AMD. It’s thought that the toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke and vape aerosols damage the blood vessels in the retina, leading to inflammation and degeneration of the macula — the part of the retina responsible for sharp central vision. Also, smoking and vaping can weaken the immune system, making the body less able to fight off infections and inflammation.
Smokers have a two-fold increased risk of developing uveitis compared to non-smokers, according to a study published in the American Journal of Ophthalmology.
Uveitis is an inflammation of the middle layer of your eye (the uvea) that can cause pain, redness and vision loss. Chemicals in cigarettes and e-cigarettes can cause inflammation in the eyes, which leading to the development of uveitis. Again, smoking makes this worse by increasing inflammation and decreasing immune response.
Smoking and vaping can affect the production and quality of your tears, making them less effective at lubricating your eyes.
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means that it narrows your blood vessels. And when it reaches your eyes, it constricts the blood vessels in your conjunctiva and cornea, reducing blood flow and tear production. Not only that, but the heat from smoking and vaping can speed up the evaporation of your tears. All of this can cause redness, itching and discomfort.
What can you do to protect your eyes from the negative effects of smoking and vaping?
The most obvious step is to quit smoking or vaping altogether. However, if you’re not ready to make that step, there are other things you can do to reduce your risk of eye problems:
- Wear protective eyewear when around smoke or vapour.
- Eat an antioxidant-rich diet, with fruits, vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Be aware of eye problems: If you experience symptoms of redness, pain or vision loss, contact our specialist eyecare team for a quick, easy and comprehensive consultation.
- Get regular eye exams – early detection and treatment can prevent serious eye disorders and blindness.
10 Straightforward Tips to Quit Smoking or Vaping.
This is not just another listicle for smoking cessation. It’s a game plan to being able to breathe easier, have more energy, and give yourself the opportunity to live a longer, healthier life. With the right resources, the right mindset and the right strategy for you, it won’t even be as difficult as you think!
Here are 10 tips to kick the habit and start the life you’ve always wanted. Remember, if one strategy doesn’t work for you, others often will:
- Set an exact date for when you will quit.
- Write out a list of reasons for ‘why you want to quit’ and be as detailed as possible.
- Make a plan to deal with potential triggers, such as habits, sources of stress or social situations.
- Deep breathing and relaxation such as yoga or meditation often help to reduce stress and cravings.
- Quit cold turkey. Some people may find it more effective to quit smoking without the use of any aids or outside support.
- Regular exercise increases endorphins, improves mood and reduces stress. This can help to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Identify as a non-smoker. Once you have quit, you are not an ex-smoker, you are a non-smoker. This creates a stronger mindset to prevent relapse.
- Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) involves using products such as nicotine patches, gum or sweets to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and cravings.
- Get support by telling family and friends about your plan to quit. You can also join a support group or talk to a counsellor to help you process your feelings.
- Learn from setbacks: Don’t be discouraged if you slip up and smoke. Learn from the experience by identifying exactly what led to you smoking and try quitting again.
Quitting smoking is never easy, but it’s definitely worth it. You’ll also be setting an example for your friends and family. If you take the first step today, you give yourself, and your loved ones, the gift of a healthier future.
It is important to remember that the negative effects of smoking and vaping on eye health, as well as overall health, are well-documented and should be taken seriously.
Quitting smoking and vaping is the most effective way to mitigate these risks and protect one’s eye health. By taking steps to protect your eyes, such as quitting smoking and vaping, eating a healthy diet, getting regular eye exams, and wearing protective eyewear, you can help reduce your risk of eye problems.
We’re Here to Help
Even if you have quit smoking or vaping, it is important to schedule regular eye exams with a specialist eyecare clinic.
Our clinicians will be able to detect any early signs of eye problems and provide appropriate treatment. By scheduling an appointment with a specialist, you are taking proactive steps to ensure that your eyes are healthy and your vision is at its best. This way, early detection and appropriate treatment can be provided, potentially preventing vision loss and other complications.
Your sight is your most precious sense, and taking care of it should be a top priority for maintaining a fulfilling and enjoyable life.
You can save this handy infographic to help you have the nicotine-free life you’ve always put off: