Vaping, or the use of electronic cigarettes, was initially introduced as a step toward smoking cessation, but has become an increasingly popular option for smokers. Though advertised as safer than conventional cigarettes, these devices have been found to contain carcinogenic chemicals, air pollutants, and heavy metals. The purpose of this article is to shed light on the known effects of vaping on the ocular setting and raise the discussion about additional potential effects that may call for further investigation.
A comprehensive literature search was conducted for publications pertaining to the effects of vaping on the eye. Relevant studies and findings were summarized in this article.
It was found that aldehydes and free radicals present in electronic cigarettes may induce a disturbance in tear film stability, and vape flavorings may damage the lipid layer through peroxidation. Corneal staining has been shown to appear following exposure to e-cigarette vapor, with nicotine and acrolein potentially inducing an inflammatory response in corneal epithelial cells. In addition, nicotine has been shown to induce nystagmus, exert vasoconstrictive effects on ocular blood flow, and may interfere with retinal light-adapted vision. Vape-related explosions, though unpredictable, may also result in decreased visual acuity along with long-term ocular trauma.
Research discussing both the short-term and long-term effects of vaping on the eye is limited. However, the potential harms of substances such as nicotine and aldehydes warrant additional investigation and increased education about the detriment that electronic cigarettes may inflict on sensitive organs.
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This study was funded by an unrestricted grant from Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB), 360 Lexington Avenue, 22nd Floor New York, NY 10017. No support was received for the publication of this article.
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Martheswaran, T., Shmunes, M.H., Ronquillo, Y.C. et al. The impact of vaping on ocular health: a literature review. Int Ophthalmol 41, 2925–2932 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10792-021-01842-w