How to take care of Eyes under Air Pollution?

Posted on January 23, 2018

The air pollution levels in urban India are increasing day by day, and have reached alarming proportions in the National Capital region of Delhi. The most common reasons for this increase in air pollution include open burning of agricultural waste, fumes of transport vehicles and industrial waste which emit toxic pollutants in the air. In 2017, the government actually declared that pollution levels have reached a level of emergency, and are a potential health hazard. Pollution affects almost every part of the body, and those who work outdoors, or play outdoors (especially children) are the worst affected. Specialized facemasks may offer partial safety from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, but leave the extremely delicate and vulnerable eyes exposed to all the harmful chemicals in the environment.

Eye symptoms due to pollution:

For the people affected by air pollution, there has been an increase in the incidence of eye problems, especially ocular surface diseases, that is, diseases that affect the outer layers of the eye, and its tear film. This manifests as a vast range of symptoms from simple irritation and burning sensation to severe allergies.

The most common problems that can be attributed to increased pollution levels include:

  • Redness
  • Burning sensation or discomfort, sore eyes
  • Watering and discharge from eyes
  • Itching sensation
  • Dry eyes: characterized by dryness, gritty sensation, foreign body in the eye
  • Eye allergy: characterized by itching, redness, discharge, eyelid swelling, blurring of vision and increased risk of infection

In such a scenario, what can we do to maintain our eye health?

Management of ill effects of pollution on the eye

The golden rule, of course, would be to avoid exposure to harmful pollutants. On days when the pollution levels are such that there is a public health warning, please stay indoors, especially in the early hours of the morning when the pollution levels are at their peak. In case you cannot avoid exposure to the environment and have to step out, make sure you wear protective eye glasses which will minimize your exposure to the pollution causing agents.

In case of eye irritation, this is what you should do.

  • In case of irritation, our first reflex reaction is to rub the eyes. It is important to avoid vigorous eye rubbingas this can result in injury, and also increases the risk of infection.
  • In case of a particle in the eye, one may gently wash the eyes with cool, drinking water. Do not splash water into the eyes.
  • Cool compresses to closed eyes may provide relief
  • Use of preservative free tear supplements may soothe the eyes, and are safe to use, as long as there is no obvious trauma to the eyes. Do not use steroid or antibiotic eye drops unless prescribed by your doctor. “Ayurvedic” and herbal eyedrops must be used on prescription only, and several of these formulations have been associated with an increased risk of severe eye diseases including infections and glaucoma.
  • Avoid the excessive use of screen devices, including mobile phones and laptops. If essential, ensure adequate periods of rest to avoid eye fatigue, dry eyes, and computer vision syndrome.
  • In case the irritation persists, you must visit your ophthalmologist for an evaluation. He or she will decide on a possible course of treatment to cure the problems affecting your eyes.

Special situations:

  • Pollution and Contact Lens Use: Avoid the use of contact lenses in case of any redness or discomfort in the eye, unless permitted to do so by your eye care professional.  Protective glasses over contact lenses may be useful if the particulate matter index is high. In case you are wearing contact lenses and experience any discomfort, it’s prudent to take them off and use lubricating eye drops as an emergency measure, and quickly seek an appointment with your ophthalmologist. Before wearing the same lenses again, make sure they have been cleaned properly and have no scratches.
  • Pollution and Eye Makeup: Avoid the use of eye makeup if eyes are feeling uncomfortable. Kajal and mascara often aggravate eye allergies, and may cause infections also. You must choose a reputed, hypoallergenic brand to make you’re your eyes aren’t adversely affected by the chemicals in the makeup product. You must also remove all eye make before you sleep using a specialized eye makeup remover, to mitigate the ill effects of the chemicals.

That said, we must, as a community of responsible citizens, do all we can to keep our city and country clean. It is our civic and moral responsibility that our children inherit a cleaner earth from us, and we must do all we can in order to ensure that Meanwhile, the Eye7 hospitals hope to partner with you in ensuring that your eyes receive the best possible care, to ensure continued eye health and sparkling vision.

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