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Air Pollution May Be to Blame for Your Itchy, Dry Eyes
Air pollution doesn't just cause respiratory issues, it may also affect your eyes. Exposure to pollutants can cause eye problems whether you live in a large city or a rural area.
Pollution is a Worldwide Problem
You're exposed to pollutants no matter where you live in the country. Although large cities like Los Angeles have the highest levels of pollution, air quality issues can affect less populated areas too, due to emissions from local businesses and farms. In fact, the American Lung Association's State of the Air 2019 report noted that more than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that received at least one "F" for unhealthy air quality.
Wind plays a crucial role in spreading pollution. Currents send pollutants thousands of miles from their origin, exposing millions of people to the unhealthy effects of pollution. Although some areas of the country are certainly less polluted than others, all of us are affected by pollution to some degree.
Common Pollution-Related Eye Symptoms
Dry eye is the most common eye issue related to air quality. Pollutants cause dry eye by decreasing moisture in the tear film that lubricates the surface of your eye. If your eyes are too dry, you may experience:
Air pollution may contribute to or cause other eye issues. A research study conducted in Barcelona explored a possible link between traffic-related air pollution and myopia, or nearsightedness.
The study found that schoolchildren exposed to traffic pollution were more likely to need glasses. Although further studies will be needed to confirm those results, the study poses an interesting question about the far-reaching effects of pollution.
How to Relieve Pollution Symptoms
Ignoring dry eye symptoms isn't a good idea. The occasional dry eye won't lead to long-term issues, but chronic dry eye can damage or even scar the cornea, the clear layer of cells that covers your iris and pupil. Corneal damage and scarring can affect your ability to see clearly.
You can treat dry eye and reduce your risk by:
Do any of these signs and symptoms sound familiar? We can help you relieve pain and discomfort caused by dry eye. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Optometry Times: How Air Pollution Affects the Ocular Surface
PLOS/ONE: Traffic-Related Air Pollution and Spectacles Use in Schoolchildren, 4/3/17
Journal of Ocular Infection and Inflammation: Minor to Chronic Eye Disorders Due to Environmental Pollution: A Review, 4/26/18
American Lung Association: The State of the Air 2019