by Steven Vale, M.D.

Smoking May Affect the Eye After LASIK

Dr. Vale and the Acuity staff take great pride in helping our patients to see the world in a new light. Thanks to advanced laser eye surgery procedures like LASIK, people are able to see well, without the need for prescription glasses or contact lenses. Seeing the world clearly also should include having a different perspective on life and health. Having LASIK or other laser vision correction procedures can help put some other life habits into perspective.

With this in mind, let’s look at how cigarette smoking impacts LASIK, PRK and Epi-Lasik patients, particularly after surgery. It’s important that patients follow instructions following eye surgery, so as to avoid problems and improve the overall results of refractive surgery.

Smoking Can Have a Negative Impact on LASIK, PRK and Epi-LASIK Recovery

Smoking is bad for you, that’s a fact. It can lead to cancer, lung disease, heart disease, and many other health problems. What’s more, it can also have an adverse impact on you as you are healing. People who smoke are more prone to infection and tend to heal slower than non-smokers. Furthermore, the cornea, which is the eye structure operated on during laser vision correction procedures, has a limited blood supply. Therefore, it is more susceptible to problems with healing than most other structures in the body. Combining these issues can lead to serious problems after you have undergone LASIK surgery.

Potential Post-op Complications Linked to Smoking

As noted above, the primary complication of concern is infection. Since it takes longer to heal after surgery, the risk of infection increases if your recovery is prolonged. Furthermore. while laser vision correction surgical procedures are safer now than ever, thanks to advanced technology, smoking while recuperating from laser vision correction can be the cause of other post-op complications, such as LASIK flap issues or inflammation under the flap after LASIK. With PRK and Epi-LASIK, prolonged healing of the corneal epithelium, the clear over the surface of the cornea, may occur in the presence of the toxins present in cigarette or other inhalant smoke.

Eye Irritation and Other Smoking Side Effects

Apart from the risk of infection, smoking can exacerbate post-surgical side effects. Your eyes will be particularly sensitive after LASIK, and the smoke from cigars and cigarettes can be extremely irritating. This can cause your eyes to tear excessively. If you experienced dry eye before surgery, toxins in smoke can lead to severe discomfort in the eyes after LASIK. This may in fact exacerbate the dry eye.

Stop Smoking Before Your LASIK Procedure

Before you undergo LASIK or other laser vision correction procedures, it’s important that you attempt to avoid cigars, cigarettes, and other tobacco products. This will help put your body in the best condition to heal well after your procedure. Be aware that this is a common pre-op suggestion given to all surgical patients. Epi-LASIK and PRK may also require additional healing time as well if you smoke or live with a smoker. Bear in mind if you are considering these procedures, your return to work may be delayed if your eyes continue to be exposed to smoke.

Avoid Smoking While You Are Healing

After LASIK, you’ll want to avoid inhalants for a few weeks so your eyes can fully heal. Try Nicorette gum or patches if necessary to reduce or stop smoking. This helps to assure you will not trigger any serious attacks of dry eye or major ocular irritation.

Why Not Quit for Good?

After undergoing LASIK, a number of people feel that it’s as good a reason as any to finally kick the habit for good. By quitting smoking, you avoid many potential health problems, some of which, such as cataracts, dry eye and age related macular degeneration, affect the eye.

If you need help quitting, we can provide you with information and direct you to resources that can help you quit.


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