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Air Pollution leads to an increase in eye infections

Air pollution in various Indian cities is emerging as a cause for the hike in eye allergies in people of all ages.

Dr. Amod Gupta , recipient of the honorable Padma Shri award said, “ The main reason behind pollution related eye infections is that harmful substances as pollen and chemical substances as  Carbon monoxide, Nitrogen dioxide and  Sulphur dioxide over a time cause an impact on the tear film of the eyes.”

According to a report Pollution and Eye Disease - Irritation, Burning Sensation, Dryness and Allergy by Dr Somasheila Murthy, Head of Service, Corneal Diseases at L V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad

“The major air pollutants in any big city are

Carbon monoxide: It is emitted from automobiles and air conditioners, heaters. It is the biggest source of air pollution.

Nitrogen dioxide: It is emitted from cars and factories. It causes severe allergic reaction and also acid rain of mixing with water vapor.

Particulate matter: Coarse and fine particles in atmosphere cause irritation and allergic symptoms in human body.

Sulphur dioxide: It has a rotten egg smell and mainly comes from industries. It causes smog reducing visibility and is a very strong irritant for skin, eyes and breathing.

Other pollutants: Asbestos, arsenic, benzene, lead, dioxin etc are other sources of air pollution today. Chlorofluorocarbons, halons etc cause reduction in protective ozone layer in atmosphere causing eye and skin chronic irritation and even risk of cancer.”

Dr Amod Gupta, ophthalmologist at the Advanced Eye Centre & Dean at PGIMER, Chandigarh said, “Pollution does not infect the human eye directly.  But after a span, patients come across various symptoms as redness and watering of eyes, Itching, dryness, blurry vision and inability to open eyes. The most common eye allergy caused by air pollution is Dry Eye Syndrome.”

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, Dry Eye Syndrome is a condition when the eye is unable to produce tears. Dr Amod Gupta said, “The tear layer of people living in smoky and pollutant environments becomes dry resulting in aqueous tear deficiency. The lack of this layer may also result in the eventual weakening and blindness of the eye.”

According to the study, Dry Eye Disease by Dr. Samar Kumar Basak, “There is no population-based study in relation to dry eye disease in India. However, there are only three published reports on prevalence of dry eye among hospital-based population from North and Eastern India and the prevalence varies between 18.4% and 40.8%.”

Another eye problem is Conjunctivitis.

What is Conjunctivitis?

Conjunctivitis is majorly caused by a viral infection that is either spread from person to person or through contaminated water. Other major reason leading to this condition is the pollutants in air. Certain allergens pollen, dust mites and may trigger the infection

What should be done?

Dr Amod Gupta said, “Hands are a storehouse of harmful bacteria. People have a tendency to rub their eyes. When any microbe as bacteria, archaea, fungi and they enter body tissues and they start multiplying. The body eventually reacts to that microbe it causes infection. If the bacteria is exposed to eyes through hands the flu begins."

Another reason that upgrades an infection is the self medication that patients pursue.  “Any self medication is bad. People buy eye drops from Chemist shops without prescriptions. The eye drops provide relief owing to its medicinal properties but the medicine is potent in nature. The eye drops that are used to treat minor eye inflammation contain corticosteroid also called steroids. People continue to use these drops and the optic nerve gets disposed of. The elimination of which causes diseases as Glaucoma and vision loss” added Dr Amod Gupta.









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