Effects of Smoking on Contact Lenses

15th Oct 2020

Smoking is injurious to health, this warning is written on the package of the cigarettes itself, so there is no doubt about it, even more than 15 billion cigarettes are sold every day in the world. Smoking has harmful effects on every organ of the body. As these organs are internal, we don’t catch a glimpse of the damage, so we tend to believe it’s not happening. But it’s no new news that smoking cigarettes can have deleterious effects on your health. The damages it causes are broad spectrum including; gum disease, stained teeth, sagging of skin, constant smell from mouth and clothes and oral cancer. It can also be a major cause of cancer, high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease and an increased risk of osteoporosis. Not to forget an assortment of ocular complications, early menopause, reproductive problems and a reduced athletic ability. It also affects one of our most vital external organs, our eyes. The perils of smoking and the adverse repercussions of it start from the ocular surface and extend till the optic nerve. Smoking affects the eye harmfully, on so many levels. There is an escalation in eye infections, early cataracts, macular degeneration and frequent dry eyes, irritation and redness.

For people who wear contacts for vision correction or just to enhance their appearance, the risk is ten folds. Smoking is just a bad habit, which affects the smoker, their children and the people around them. Even if you don’t smoke the chances of encountering it are high. It’s a mere inconvenience for most people, causing them a slight cough or itching in their eyes. But for the contact lens wearers it means extra irritation, redness, and a strong urge to rub the eyes due to dryness. If you are a smoker plus a contact lens wearer you must have witnessed the pitfalls of it firsthand. The recurrent dry eyes, red eyes, irritation and itching must be common for you. So why do smoker’s eyes behave like this? Our body is a complex mechanism, with its own amours, guards and safety features. The main guard for our eyes is the eyelashes. They block any foreign material entering our eyes and are great at what they do. But smoke is a nasty intruder which gets past our guards in the form of toxic vapors, thus causing irritation. It also breaks the tear film in our eyes, resulting in dry eyes. Cigarettes work like a tonic or reviver in the body, making it all charged up. Not only does it stimulate our metabolism, our heart rate, it also raises our blood pressure that makes the blood vessels tighten. To rectify the situation our heart pumps more blood in the vessels making them dilate that increases redness in the eyes.

Contacts are like a second skin on our eyes. They correct our vision and in some cases beautify our looks. But they come with a safety manual and instruction regarding their hygiene that must be followed as is. The combination of smoking while wearing contacts is often very uncomfortable. Smoke emitting from the cigarettes can cause dryness, turning your eyes in sandpaper. It’s an agony to be in that situation, your eyeballs demand the moisture and hydration. Although it isn’t fatal, the situation is quite unbearable. You smoke cigarettes to calm yourself down, to unwind from all the tensions and worries and boom! Everything goes in reverse, as your eyes are killing you, you can’t enjoy the serenity and peace now. You constantly want to rub your eyes as it feels there is something stuck in the eyes. Your vision might be blurred and eyes might tear up to combat the issue. Smokey contacts are intolerable and agonizing to say the least. There is an increased risk of eye infections, keratitis, and corneal ulcers.

Particles of smoke can adhere to the contact lenses. Immediately clean up your lenses to protect your eyes. Even if you feel your eyes are moist and your vision is perfect, disinfect them with lens solution to be sure that no traces of smoke is left on them, next morning use them as normal. The best option for smokers is to use daily disposable lenses; they are perfect and most suitable for them. Dispose them off after smoke exposure, no cleaning and disinfecting needed. Our natural tears are not enough to wash away the irritants that come with the smoke. The best coloured contact lenses or vision corrections lenses are daily disposable ones for all smokers out there.

The hands of any smoker are covered with contaminants of tobacco, when they light the cigarette, smoke it and hold it. The tar and nicotine deposits on your hands and tips of your fingers, when you take off your lenses or put them on, these particles enter the eyes causing a burning sensation. What starts like a burning sensation can end up in the corneal ulcer. Every time you insert your lenses in the eyes make sure your hands are washed. Regularly and thoroughly clean and disinfect the lenses, rub them with your fingers and soak them in the solution overnight. This will ensure that all the terraces of tar and nicotine have evaded the surface of your lens and they are ready to be used again.

You can also assist your eyes to keep an optimal health by a warm compress whenever your eyes are red and sore. As smoke from cigarettes constricts the blood vessels, a bit of a heat can be effective to aid tear production. Artificial tears are a must-have item in the arsenal of a smoker. They provide instant relief and comfort. A cold compress is also effective if the signs are of inflammation in the eyes. They will soothe the eye and calm down the stinging.

Eyes are a blessing and we should always keep them healthy with utmost care and precision. Smoking has many harmful consequences, be mindful.