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Smoking and Contact Lenses: Why Do Your Eyes Get Red When You Smoke?

Why do your eyes get red when you smoke?

Did you know that 15 billion cigarettes are sold to people around the world every day?

Even if you don't smoke, the chances of encountering secondhand smoke are quite high. It’s usually a minor inconvenience to most people. But for those who wear contact lenses, it can mean extra eye irritation.

If you smoke and wear contacts, dealing with frequent dry, red eyes can be tiring. So why do your eyes get red when you smoke? Keep reading to learn the science of smoker’s eyes. We also give you tips to combat the irritation so you can stay comfortable all day.

Why Do Your Eyes Get Red When You Smoke?

Our bodies are complex and filled with lots of safety features. One way our eyes protect themselves is through our eyelashes.

Eyelashes serve to block foreign materials. Although our eyelashes do a great job of protecting our eyes, they can't stop smoky vapors.

Cigarettes are loaded with hundreds of toxic chemicals that trigger irritation throughout the entire body. The most visible effects can be seen in our eyes, teeth and skin.

Smoking makes your eyes red for two reasons:

Close-up of heavily inflamed red eye

The Pitfalls of Smoke and Contacts

Our eyes respond to redness and dryness by producing more tears. These tears then lubricate the eyes’ surfaces and flush out the irritants. So people who don't wear contacts never have to worry too much about cigarette smoke (unless they’re allergic, of course!). They only sport red eyes for a few minutes after encountering smoke.

The problem with contacts is they act as a second skin on our eyes. While this is good for our comfort, it also comes with disadvantages. If smoke or other foreign materials get trapped behind our lenses, then our eyes have a hard time clearing them out. This means smoke can irritate our eyes for much longer.

Eyes Red After Wearing Contacts? Try These Quick Relief Tips!

Warm Compress

A warm compress works best to restore balance in the blood vessels. Since cigarettes restrict blood flow, a little bit of heat can help open the vessels up again. It can also aid in tear production to clear debris from the eyes.

How to do it: Take a clean washcloth and run it under water that is hot enough for your own comfort. Wring out excess moisture and apply the washcloth directly onto your closed eyes. Sit back and relax for 10 minutes. If you prefer, you can also take a hot shower and let the water pour over your face. But make sure you don’t wear your contacts in the shower!

Artificial Tears

Man putting in some quick relief eye drops

Artificial tears are a must-have in every lens user's arsenal. Not only do they alleviate dryness, but they also clean the eyes. Artificial tears can provide instant relief after encountering smoke.

How to do it: You're probably no stranger to this routine. Tilt your head back and squeeze a few drops into each eye. Blink rapidly to distribute the solution evenly over your eyes’ surfaces.

Cold Compress

If a warm compress doesn’t work for red eye caused by smoking, you should try a cold compress. They’re great for reducing inflammation. Just make sure the compress isn’t too cold since it can make the redness worse.

How to do it: Take a clean washcloth and run it under cold water. Wring it out and drape it over your eyes for up to 10 minutes. Another helpful trick is to keep spoons stored in the fridge. If you suffer from puffy, irritated eyes, resting chilled spoons over your eyelids can provide relief.

Why Daily Disposable Contacts Can Help Solve Eye Irritation

If you think daily disposable contacts are a luxury most can't afford, then we have great news for you. Some disposable contacts are as cheap as a dollar a day!

There are many benefits of switching to daily disposables. For instance, you don't have to fuss with taking care of your contacts. Improper cleaning or storage of your lenses can cause severe health consequences. But daily disposables let you avoid all of that! They also reduce your risk of eye infections, irritation, dryness and redness.

Things to Consider if You Want to Quit Smoking

Happy young woman who quit smoking

Although smokers have heard of many consequences for their habit, not many are aware of what it can do to their eye health. Dryness and irritation are the least severe issues.

If you smoke, you increase your chances of developing cataracts. Cataracts make your vision cloudy and, if left untreated, can lead to blindness.

If you don't take care of eye redness after smoking, this can lead to corneal abrasions. This happens because the smoke dries up your eyes. Over time, this damage can worsen. It can lead to corneal scarring and ulcers severe enough to cause blindness.

Lastly, everyone knows that our vision deteriorates as we age. One of the most common age-related eye diseases is macular degeneration. Smokers greatly increase their chances of developing this disease, which also results in major vision loss.

These are just a few of the risks. If you want to continue smoking, be mindful of others. Secondhand smoke can also cause these diseases. Always be cautious and keep a bottle of artificial tears on hand to help keep your eyes clean and hydrated after smoking.

Get Rid of Red Eye When Smoking

If you use these tips, you can prevent eye irritation when you smoke.

And if someone asks “Why do your eyes get red when you smoke,” you can point them to this article.

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