Growing air pollution in Delhi and surrounding cities like Noida, Gurgaon, Faridabad, and Ghaziabad, have left residents and health experts worried. And it’s not just Delhi-NCR, several cities across India have been reeling under the impact of toxic air. Dr Maramganty Vamshidhar, Senior Cataract and Refractive Surgeon, Maxivision Eye Hospital, Somajiguda, Hyderabad, says, “Air pollution is a pressing global concern with far-reaching health implications. While most of us are aware of its effects on our respiratory system, we often overlook its impact on our eyes.” In this article, the doctor explains the ways in which air pollution affects our eyes, the problems it can cause, warning signs to look out for, and practical steps to follow in order to take care of our precious vision.
How Air Pollution Impacts Eyes
Dr Maramganty Vamshidhar lists the following impacts of air pollution on the eyes:
1. Irritation and Dryness: Polluted air is laden with tiny particulate matter, chemicals, and toxins that can irritate the eyes. When these pollutants come into contact with the delicate surface of our eyes, they can cause redness, itching, and a gritty feeling. Prolonged exposure may result in chronic dry eyes.
2. Allergic Reactions: Allergens which are airborne like pollen and mold spores can attach themselves to pollution particles, thereby forming a potent allergenic mix. This can lead to allergic reactions in the eyes, leading to symptoms such as itching, tearing, and swollen eyelids.
3. Increased Risk of Eye Infections: Air pollution weakens the eye’s natural defence mechanisms. This makes the eyes more vulnerable to infections, as pollutants can compromise the integrity of the protective tear film and make it easier for bacteria or viruses to enter the eye.
Problems Pollution Can Cause
Air pollution can lead to following eye issues, Dr Vamshidhar points out:
1. Conjunctivitis: Also known as “pink eye,” conjunctivitis is a common eye condition often caused by viral or bacterial infections. Air pollution can weaken the eye’s defences because of exposure to pollutants and can increase one’s likelihood of developing conjunctivitis.
2. Dry Eye Syndrome: Prolonged exposure to air pollution can lead to dry eye syndrome, a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This can result in discomfort, blurred vision, and an increased risk of corneal damage.
3. Cataracts: Yes, you read that right! Air pollution can contribute to the development and progression of cataracts. Prolonged exposure to air pollution has been linked to an increased risk of developing this clouding of the eye’s natural lens, leading to impaired vision.
4. Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): Air pollution’s oxidative stress can accelerate the progression of AMD, a leading cause of vision loss among older adults. AMD affects the macula, and the central part of the retina, and impairs central vision.
Warning Signs To Look Out For
1. Persistent redness, itching, or burning sensation in the eyes.
2. Frequent tearing or watery eyes.
3. Gritty feeling, as if there’s something in your eye.
4. Blurred or fluctuating vision.
5. Sensitivity to light.
6. Eye discharge or crust in the morning.
7. Difficulty in focusing or seeing clearly, especially at night.
How To Take Care Of Eyes Amid Pollution
While you might not be able to control outdoor pollution, you can take certain steps to keep your eyes healthy. Dr Vamshidhar suggests the following steps:
1. Use Artificial Tears: Lubricating eye drops can help alleviate dryness and discomfort caused by pollution. Use preservative-free artificial tears as needed.
2. Wear Protective Eyewear: Consider wearing wrap-around sunglasses to shield your eyes from pollutants and allergens when outdoors, especially on high-pollution days.
3. Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration helps maintain the tear film’s integrity. Drink enough water to prevent dry eyes.
4. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes: Rubbing can exacerbate irritation and introduce germs into your eyes. If your eyes are irritated, use clean hands or a sterile eyewash to rinse them.
5. Maintain Good Indoor Air Quality: Use air purifiers and keep windows closed during days of high pollution to reduce indoor exposure.
6. Regular Eye Check-ups: Visit an eye care professional for regular check-ups, especially if you experience persistent eye discomfort or vision changes.
Also Read: Air Pollution: Are Air Purifiers Really Effective? Doctor Says THIS – Check Dos And Don’ts
Eyecare Amidst Pollution: Check Dos And Don’ts
Dr Vamshidhar points out the following dos and don’ts:
1. Do wear protective eyewear when necessary.
2. Do wash your hands frequently to prevent introducing germs to your eyes.
3. Do seek professional help if you experience persistent eye issues.
4. Do stay informed about air quality in your area and take precautions on high pollution days.
1. Don’t rub your eyes when they are irritated.
2. Don’t ignore warning signs of eye problems.
3. Don’t smoke, as it can worsen eye conditions and increase the risk of cataracts.
4. Don’t use redness-relief eye drops without a doctor’s recommendation, as they can mask underlying issues.
“Air pollution is a silent threat to our eyesight, and its effects should not be underestimated. By understanding how pollution impacts our eyes, recognising warning signs, and taking the necessary precautions, we can protect our vision and ensure a healthier future for our eyes. It’s essential to stay proactive, take care of our eyes, and advocate for cleaner air to reduce the long-term impact of air pollution on our eye health,” Dr Vamshidhar signs off.