Complications with smoking and your eyes are related to the myriad chemicals in cigarette smoke. But is nicotine one of those chemicals? And, if so, are you any safer using a nicotine replacement therapy to help kick the habit and reduce your risks for macular degeneration and cataracts?
There are over 4,000 known chemicals in cigarette smoke. These chemicals do various things to your eyes including increasing oxidative stress. Nicotine alone does not increase oxidative stress, but it does constrict blood vessels, reducing necessary blood flow to the eyes. In addition, nicotine can slow or completely stop the production of rhodospin, the chemical pigment responsible for proper night vision. This means when you quit smoking cigarettes with a nicotine replacement such as patches, gum, or an e-cigarette, you eliminate the damage being done by many of the chemicals, but not the damage being done by nicotine itself.
Here’s the good news: people who use nicotine replacement therapy to quit smoking have a higher rate of success than those who choose to quit cold turkey. Since 90 percent of nicotine is metabolized by your liver as soon as it hits your system, only 10 percent remains after you have stopped using a nicotine replacement therapy. This remaining 10 percent can stay for up to 30 days, but will eventually clear from your body. Once cleared, future damage from cigarette smoking and nicotine is eliminated.
While there is no way to undo the damage already done to your eyes by cigarettes, it is always best to quit smoking. Your eye doctor can discuss this with you in full detail during your regularly scheduled eye exams.
To learn more about protecting your vision, please visit eyes.com to find an eye doctor in your area today.