We know that pollutants can harm our health, but can they be harmful to our eyes too? The short answer is yes; pollution can be detrimental, both short and long term. Our eyes are constantly exposed to the open air. This means they are consistently exposed to all the pollutants found in the air.
Smoke, ozone, and even nitrogen dioxide
These pollutants can leave long-lasting effects on your eyes. While there is no way you can keep your eyes from being exposed to the open air, you can help keep them healthy by understanding what risks are associated with pollution and taking proactive protective measures.
Typical forms of air pollution
There are six common pollutants in the air. These pollutants are ground-level ozone, particulate matter, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, lead and carbon monoxide. This includes daily urban pollution and smoke as a result of forest fires.
Summon air pollution can cause minor to severe damage to your eyes. Some studies have found that higher air pollution, in general, is associated with conjunctivitis and nitrogen dioxide can cause eye irritation.
Pollutants from cars, power plants and other industrial sources react to the sunlight to form ground-level ozone. This harmful ozone is the main contributor to urban smog and can cause dry eyes and other severe conditions.
The smoke from forest fires can also contain many harmful pollutants. These can include carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides, dust and other tiny particles. When the smoke gets in your eyes, small particles and fumes dissolve into your tears and coat the eye’s surface, which triggers irritation and inflammation.
The long-term impact of air pollution
One typical long-term result of pollution is dry eye. This is a condition where your eyes either do not produce enough tears or do not produce tears that are of sufficient quality to keep your eyes lubricated. If you already have dry eyes, poor air quality can worsen the problem.
Studies show that high pollution levels can increase the risks of developing age-related macular degeneration. This is because the pollutants that we breathe can get into the bloodstream, which damages the blood vessels in the eye. Studies also show that air pollution is linked to higher instances of glaucoma, a debilitating condition that can cause blindness.
Protecting your eyes and treating them
These are some steps that you can take to help protect your eyes from air pollution:
- Stay indoors whenever possible when the air quality is poor. Stay inside in the morning when air quality is the worst.
- Avoid wearing contact lenses when air quality is poor.
- Wear glasses or sunglasses when going outside. This helps prevent dust from irritating the surface of your eyes.
- Wash your hands often and avoid rubbing your eyes.
If your eyes become irritated, these are some things that you can do:
- Use some lubricating eye drops prescribed by an eye specialist.
- You can apply a cold compress to your eyes to help reduce inflammation.
- Look for a medical professional if you have constant eye irritation.
Regular eye exams are important for maintaining optimum eye health. Call any day and make an appointment with one of our experienced optometrists in Orangeville. New patients, young and old, are always welcome.