E-cigarettes are battery operated machines that allow a person to inhale aerosol chemicals that normally contain nicotine. A person puffs on the heating device powered by a battery, which vaporizes the liquid in a cartridge, allowing a person to inhale the vapor.

E-cigs and vaping have been in the news lately as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes. But despite their growing popularity, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said e-cigs may be responsible for an outbreak of deadly lung disease around the nation. But it's also possible that vaping can impact a person's long-term eye health.

Dr. Joseph Calderone, of Better Vision New Jersey in Cranford, said e-cigs have only been around for the past 15 years, so there has not been a lot of research about the effects of vaping on the eyes. But the eyes can definitely suffer from the vapors.

All vapors pose risks to eye health. Some chemicals in vapors can irritate the eyes and exacerbate dry eye. Any nicotine vapor delivers nicotine drug effects, such as elevated blood pressure, an accelerated heart rate and even insulin resistance. Some of these side effects are risk factors for serious eye conditions such as glaucoma, retinopathy and more.

A lot of these chemicals in the vapors are the same ones people absorb when they smoke cigarettes. He said smoking real cigarettes increases the risk of macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of severe, irreversible vision loss especially in people over age 60. Calderone said that it's not a big jump to conclude that a person can increase his or her risk of macular degeneration by puffing on aerosol while vaping.

"We learned long after the 1960s that macular degeneration happens more frequently in cigarette smokers. We don't know that happens more frequently in vapors. We can suspect it. But in 15 years, there's a lot of stuff we can't possibly know because nobody has been vaping for the last hundred years," said Calderone.

He also said a big problem happens when the e-cig malfunctions and explodes. These explosions have happened frequently enough to cause many hospitalizations, which result in vision loss.

Vape explosions can be caused by poor storage conditions, overcharging batteries or using an improper charger.


More from New Jersey 101.5: