How Does Air Quality Affect Your Eye Health?

Spring is around the corner. That means no more gray skies or cold weather. It is the advent of summer! And when summer arrives, it is time for fun in the sun. Pool parties. Barbeques. Lots of sunlight. More outdoor time also means more air exposure. Sunshine, temperature, and storms all affect air quality. During heat waves, air quality can be at its lowest. Now, you might think the air only affects your lungs. It doesn’t. It affects your eyes too. But how does air quality affect your eye health overall?

Because they are extremely complex and delicate, human eyes are fragile. They are just as vulnerable to air quality as your lungs. That might sound scary, but have no fear! In this post, we’ll show you how air quality and eye health are related and how to keep your eyes healthy.

How Air Quality Affects Eye Health

Air quality is determined by the amount of pollution it carries. When it is low, pollutants are high. When pollutants enter the bloodstream, they can damage the small blood vessels in the eyes. That’s why it’s important to know what pollutants could cause eye damage. Let’s explore them.

Effects of Common Air Pollutants

Air Quality Affect Your Eye HealthPollution is everywhere. The most common pollutants appear in everyday places. They include:

  • Smoke
  • Ground-level ozone
  • Particulate matter
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Lead

Smoke alone can contain carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide. When those pollutants enter the eyes, they can cause inflammation and irritation. That’s why you “cry” when bonfire smoke blows into your face. Aside from other dangers of fire, that’s another reason to avoid wildfires and house fires.

Ground-level ozone is the main ingredient in smog. It forms when chemicals react to sunlight. Emissions from cars, power plants, or refineries are released into the air and sunlight turns them into ground-level ozone. It’s bad enough to cause dry eye, a condition where you’re unable to produce enough tears for lubrication. Sulfur dioxide, lead, and particulate matter such as pollen and dust can also cause dry eyes and other problems.

At their worst, prolonged eye exposure to these pollutants can lead to vision loss. Fortunately, you can avoid that with the tips in the next section.

How to Guard Your Eye Health Against Low Air Quality

During COVID, air quality is even more essential. Eyes are prime entry points for viruses. If you have a physical business, make sure your building has proper IAQ. Consider opening the windows to keep circulation high. Sometimes, though, you can’t avoid being outside. Maybe your job requires you to be outdoors, or you just need to go to the grocery store. Whatever the case, here’s what you should try to do when air quality is low:

  • Wear glasses or sunglasses outside
  • Don’t rub your eyes
  • Wash your hands often
  • Get an air purifier/humidifer

Looking Glass Optical Cares About Your Eyes

Sometimes poor air quality affects your eyes despite precautions. If your eyes get irritated, use eye drops, apply a cool compress, or talk to your optometrist. . At Looking Glass Optical, we’re a small, family-owned practice with three generations of eye care professionals dedicated to your health. Don’t wait – we’re here to help. Ask us a question or book an appointment to ensure your eyes are healthy.