Protect your eyes from pollution


Pollution levels in Delhi-NCR have been alarming since the start of the holiday season due to a combination of factors such as traffic pollution, firecrackers burning, stubble burning in neighboring states, etc. According to a recent study, air quality in NCR is as bad as smoking 40 cigarettes a day. And prolonged exposure to this polluted air has disastrous consequences for all organs of our body, including the eyes. Cases of dry eyes, lacrimation, burning, blurred vision, and even glaucoma are regularly reported.

“The eye, as one of the most sensitive organs, is constantly exposed to a toxic environment, which poses significant risks to eye health and vision in general,” says Dr. Saumiya Sharma, Senior Consultant at Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals.

Factors affecting eye health

The severity of the discomfort caused by air pollution is determined by the level of hydrocarbons and nitric oxide in the surrounding air. The hydrocarbon chemicals that cause this eye irritation are the C4 and C5 olefins produced by automobiles. “According to, air pollution in most major cities in India ranges from bad to severe, with air quality index (AQI) scores above 400. In addition to traditional culprits such as car exhaust fumes and industrial debris, open burning of agricultural waste exacerbates the problem.” , adds Dr. Sharma.

Effects of pollution on the eyes

With regular exposure, air pollution can cause watery eyes, burning, blurred vision, glaucoma and dry eye, which are irreversible.

Dry eye syndrome is a condition in which the eye does not produce enough tears to moisturize the eye, which keeps it dry all the time, leading to irritation. If this continues for a long period, it may even lead to loss of vision, ”says Dr. Mahipal Sachdev, Medical Director and Chairman of the Vision Center of the Eye Hospitals Group.

Air pollutants can also cause chemical conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis, commonly referred to as “pink eye”, refers to contamination or swelling of the outer lining of the eyeball. “Treatment involves thoroughly flushing the eye with saline and may require the use of typical steroids,” adds Dr. Sachdev.

Many people also experience burning eyes due to the presence of air pollutants such as nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide in the air.

“A 2015 study by AIIMS, New Delhi shows that 10-15% of people in Delhi suffer from chronic irritation and dry eye syndrome due to constant exposure to high levels of air pollutants. Redness, sensitivity to light, soreness, sensitivity to wind and smoke, and mucus around the eyeballs are some of the common symptoms of dry eye, ”adds Dr. Rishi Raj Bora, Regional Director, Orbis India.

How to protect your eyes

The golden rule is to avoid exposure to harmful pollutants. However, by following these tips, it is possible to minimize eye symptoms in a polluted environment.

Do not rub your eyes, even if particles get into them, as this can cause abrasions on the cornea.

Flush eyes thoroughly with water. If foreign body sensation persists, see an ophthalmologist.

Lubricating eye drops prescribed by ophthalmologists can also bring comfort.

When outdoors, wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays, which can cause long-term problems.

Do not wear contact lenses outdoors. If you do need to wear them, go for disposable ones.

(Contribution of Dr. Vinita Tandon, Senior Consultant, Physician, PSRI Hospital, Delhi, and Dr. Jinish Upadhai, Consultant Ophthalmologist, Masina Hospital, Mumbai)


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