Smoking, Contact Lenses & Your Vision

Chances are you already know that smoking is not good for you. Cigarette smoke can lead to lung cancer, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and other lung diseases. According to the CDC, cigarette smoking causes 480,000 deaths each year.

Did you know that cigarette smoking is harmful to your eyes, too?

Smoking increases your risk for cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration. The American Academy of Ophthalmology named February as Age-related Macular Degeneration Awareness month to draw attention to the many ways people can develop this condition. Each of the diseases caused by smoking can result in a loss of vision at best, blindness at worst.

no smokingFor diabetics, smoking can be even more dangerous because it contributes to diabetic retinopathy, which causes blindness. If you smoke, now is always a good time to quit. Resources like 1-800-QUIT-NOW can help you get on the road to freedom from cigarette use.

Even if you don’t smoke, you should still watch out for exposure to secondhand smoke. A recent study in Japan showed that even secondhand exposure to cigarette smoke can be very harmful. The study evaluated contact lens wearers and non-lens wearers where each group was exposed to secondhand cigarette smoke for 5 minutes. Then eye metrics like tear evaporation, film break-up time, moisture and damage to surface cells were measured. The findings showed that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke affected the eyes of the contact lens wearers more than the eyes of non-lens wearers.

Avoiding smoking and smoky places is the one of the best things you can do to protect for your contact lenses and overall eye health. If you know you’ll be in a smoky environment, consider wearing your glasses, which will offer some protection from the smoke. If that’s not an option—let’s say you are somewhere that you didn’t expect to encounter secondhand smoke—try to position yourself as far away as possible from direct lines of smoke. Find a spot near a door or window for better ventilation. Close your eyes and blink often to help keep your eyes lubricated and comfortable. Don’t be afraid to get up to get some fresh air, and even re-wet your contact lenses if you have re-wetting drops on hand.

Don’t let smoking ruin your vision or your health.

Talk to your America’s Best optometrist about other ways you can protect your eyes and contacts, and preserve your vision in smoky situations.

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