Can Vaping Cause Eye Problems?

If you’ve been following headlines for the past few years, you’ve probably heard several conflicting things about vaping. While some people claim this habit is a “safe” way to smoke, lung disease and even death have links to vaping and e-cigarettes. Now, ophthalmologists are sounding the alarm that this type of smoking can harm people’s vision.

What Is Vaping?

Vaping entails inhaling the vapor, or aerosol, from e-cigarettes, vape pens or similar devices. Though vapes don’t have tobacco, they contain nicotine, flavoring, and other chemicals. Some users vape drugs like LSD, GHB, and ketamine or THC, the primary psychotropic ingredient in marijuana.

How Vaping Could Affect Your Vision

A survey published in September 2019 in Optometry and Vision Science suggested vaping is not healthy for people’s eyes. Researchers found moderate to severe cases of dry eye and lower-quality tear film among 21 patients who vaped, compared with the same number of healthy non-vapers. However, since this study had such a small sample size, the scientists recommended more research to gain a more extensive understanding of how e-cigarettes affect eye health.

An earlier study published in the journal Frontiers in Physiology noted some flavor additives in e-cigarettes contain chemicals that could produce inflammation and oxidative stress – a critical factor in the development of chronic diseases. These issues can harm your eyes.

Vaping, Smoking, and Vision

Dr. Rohit Varma, director of the Southern California Eye Institute in Los Angeles, believes vaping e-cigarettes is as dangerous to your eyes as smoking tobacco because the toxins you inhale have systemic effects.

His research indicates cigarette smoking heightens the risk of many eye conditions, including:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Dry eye syndrome

However, it’s currently unclear if these risks have any links to vaping.

Dr. Varma says the eye health risks associated with vaping stem from the chemicals emitted, including formaldehyde, nicotine, and diacetyl in e-cigarette flavoring. Because these chemicals are also in cigarettes, they could cause the same vision difficulties as cigarette smoking.

Dr. Varma perceived the overall risk of vision loss might be four times greater for vapers than non-vapers, according to the American Optometric Association’s announcement that cigarette smokers face much greater odds of developing macular degeneration than nonsmokers.

Austin, Texas, ophthalmologist Dr. Tanya Khan added, “Though there have been no long-term studies to assess the effects of vaping on the eyes, it can be safely presumed that vaping creates noxious fumes that irritate the surface of the eye.” Dr. Khan recommends you should avoid vaping to safeguard your vision and overall health.

The Risks of Vaping and Smoking

Optometrists nationwide are directing patients to smoking cessation resources due to the dangers posed by cigarettes and vaping. They are also advising their patients that vaping is not a safe alternative to smoking under any circumstances.

The primary ingredient in e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes is highly addictive nicotine. Vaping exposes people to toxic chemicals with poorly understood adverse effects on overall health and well-being.

For more information about your vision and eye health, contact us at Will Vision and Laser Center or schedule a complimentary consultation with board-certified ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Will.