Not that anyone should need another reason to stop smoking, but you might not have though of visual problems connected to smoking. In addition to increasing the risk of macular degeneration, smoking affects the structures of the front part of the eye and can lead to difficulties in wearing contact lenses. This article will discuss some of the contact lens and corneal issues associated with smoking.
Smoke is a drying agent. We use smoke and heat to cook up great food for the weekend barbecue, we use smoke to cure fish and other food products. And these food items are dried during the process. Well, the same thing is happening around the face of a smoker. The skin of the face becomes drier and more wrinkled. In addition the skin becomes more tough and less pliable. On the eye, we see the following problems:
- Reduction in tear protection – the tear film on the front of the eye evaporates more quickly in the presence of smoke. The small glands that normally lubricate the eye can’t keep up with the demand and the larger, emotional gland turns on and the eye is now tearing and burning at the same time.
- Discoloration of the skin – Just like around the skin around the mouth can become discolored, so can the skin around the eyes. The eyelids may become darker, resembling the proverbial “circles under the eyes”.
- Discoloration of the contact lenses – Contact lenses will turn yellow or amber in the presence of heavy smoke. The changes in the color of the contact lens may not be cosmetically noticeable, but the ability of the lens to stay moist is compromised leading to discomfort and decreased vision.
Smokers pose a challenge for the doctor when contact lenses are to be worn. Doctors will usually see smoker back in the office more frequently with complaints of discomfort and fluctuating vision with their contact lenses. So, if you want a better experience with contact lenses, perhaps it’s time to “quit the habit”