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How the Environment Can Affect Your Vision and Eye Health

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How lucky we are to be born with eyelids, tears and other mechanisms to protect our eyes from wind, dust, and pollution. But that doesn't make us completely immune to things in the environment that can harm our vision and eye health.

Environmental factors such as pollutants, toxic gasses and chemicals, bacteria, smoking, and ultraviolet radiation can all harm different parts of our eyes.

Environmental Factors Can Damage Your Vision

There are many ways your eyes can be affected by environmental factors, but the most common are direct exposure to the sun's radiation as well as to the chemicals, ozone, nitrogen dioxide and other harmful substances in the air we breathe daily.

  1. UV rays: Prolonged exposure to the sun's UV light can cause damage to the structures of the eye, most often the cornea (the front of the eye) or the retina (the back of the eye). UV radiation raises the risk of developing sight-threatening eye conditions like corneal diseases, cataracts and macular degeneration.
  2. Dust and other particles: Airborne debris can impact the cornea and induce ocular itching and blurred vision. Eye pain can indicate a corneal abrasion or an eye injury.
  3. Pollution: Ongoing exposure to air pollution can lead to a number of eye problems, including dry eye syndrome, blurred vision, ocular burning and eye watering.
  4. Smoke: In addition to raising the risk of developing serious eye diseases, cigarette smoke (first-hand and second-hand) can irritate your eyes. Smoke, from forest fires and other fires, can contain many harmful pollutants, including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides gasses, dust and other tiny particles. When this smoke comes into contact with your eyes, these small particles and fumes can dissolve into your tears and coat the eyes' surface, triggering inflammation, irritation and blurred vision.

Eye Conditions Caused By The Environment

Our eyes are in direct contact with the environment, so it's no wonder that environmental factors can either cause or contribute to certain eye conditions, including two of the most common eye conditions worldwide.

The facts:

  • Cataracts are the most common cause of reversible blindness in the world. While aging and genetics are the 2 top reasons people get cataracts, exposure to the sun's UV rays also increases the risk. Sunglasses that block 100% of UV rays lower that risk.
  • Dry eye symptoms can be triggered by a dry climate, strong winds, air conditioning, indoor heating, and poor air quality. Minimizing exposure to these environmental triggers coupled with treatments prescribed by your eye doctor can relieve dry eyes.

Is Your Vision Affected By The Environment? Ballard Vision Associates Can Help

Are you frequently experiencing eye irritation? The good news is that with the help and guidance of your optometrist, it’s possible to prevent or at least minimize the environment's damaging effects on your eyes.

Take the first step toward maintaining healthy vision by scheduling a comprehensive eye exam at Ballard Vision Associates in Brentwood today. We'll evaluate your eye health and vision and treat the root cause of any eye problem you're facing.


How does poor air quality affect eyes?

According to research studies, the higher the level of air pollution, the greater the risk of red, watery, burning and irritated eyes. The main pollutants in the air typically consist of nitric oxide, sulfur and nitrogen dioxide.

How can we protect our eyes from pollution and allergens?

While it's impossible to completely steer clear of air pollution and allergens, using the right eye drops and wearing wrap-around sunglasses can limit your eyes' exposure to these irritants. Using an air filter at home and at work can also reduce exposure. Be sure to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to receive a treatment plan for dry eyes and any other condition that causes irritated eyes.