Smoking and tobacco use are proven to harm the eyes over time, contributing to eye disease and vision loss. But now, new smoking trends like vaping and other e-cigarettes are gaining influence. Because these forms of smoking are so new and common among younger people, it’s hard to say for sure what all the long-term effects of engaging in these activities are. However, it’s safe to say that vaping, like any other form of smoking, poses a serious health risk to your eyes.
The Immediate Effects of Vaping
Vaping is the activity of inhaling a vapor or aerosol into the mouth through a handheld electronic heating device that uses specialized liquid to create “smoke”. These vape liquids are wide-ranging in ingredients and flavors, and contain many harmful chemicals, such as addictive nicotine. Vaping is often promoted as a “safe” alternative to tobacco products because it does not contain tobacco. However, the chemicals that are put into vape liquids can be just as harmful, if not moreso, than the chemicals and additives found in tobacco products.
The vapor by itself is an eye irritant, especially if the user or the people around them wear contact lenses. It can cause redness and inflammation in the eye tissue and on the ocular surface, along with the disruption of tear production. This can lead to dry eye, a potentially chronic condition. Doctors recommend that if an individual is to continue vaping, they should wear their glasses, avoiding the use of contacts, and administer artificial tears to keep the eyes moist. However, doctors also say that ultimately, people should avoid vaping and other nicotine products altogether, as these products harm the eyes through both vapor exposure and the absorption of toxins within the body.
Long-Term Effects of Vaping
E-cigarette vapor introduces harmful chemicals into the body, such as formaldehyde, diacetyl—used for preservation and flavor, respectively—and, of course, nicotine. Some studies have shown that these chemicals can produce oxidative stress, a factor in the development of chronic disease, and inflammation.
Research of cigarette smoking has also shown that the toxic substances found in these liquids, which are introduced through the lungs into the bloodstream, can cause long-term harm to the eyes. Some potential conditions include the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy. It’s unclear if the same is true of vaping, as long-term effects have not been demonstrated due to the newness of the vaping trend; however, it is likely that the chemicals found in vape liquids will have similar effects in the future. Furthermore, continued use of nicotine in both cigarettes and vape liquids leads to pupil constriction and reduced retinal activity, both of which can damage your sight.
Vaping primarily affects the lungs and is linked to “popcorn lung” disease and lung surgery in normally healthy young people. But vape chemicals enter the bloodstream from the lungs and move on to affect the eyes. In fact, vaping may even activate the immune mechanism of chronic dry-eye disease (DED), leading to even more problems with vision down the road.
Furthermore, because vape devices and vape liquids are so new, the FDA has only recently begun the process of regulating them, and they are therefore not as controlled as tobacco products are. But it’s definitely true that introducing foreign chemicals into the body always poses some degree of risk, and in the case of vaping, some negative effects have already been observed.
What To Do About Vaping
If you don’t smoke or vape, don’t start. Many scientific studies—even though there isn’t a lot of long-term evidence yet—point to vaping as being a risk factor for serious eye problems, eye disease and overall early vision loss (along with many other problematic health conditions). If you do smoke or vape, however, consider quitting so you don’t put yourself or others at risk from firsthand or secondhand smoke/vapor exposure. Finally, see an eye doctor about ways that you can prevent your eyes from becoming affected as a result of the nicotine and other harmful chemicals found in e-cigarette vapor. Contact us today to schedule an appointment!