How the Environment Can Affect Your Vision and Eye Health

Contemplative mid adult woman in the street

You know that the environment has an impact on your health. That’s why you wear sunscreen, avoid breathing in harmful chemicals, and stay inside when the air is heavily polluted. But did you ever wonder about the effect environmental factors have on your eye and vision health? Even as we protect our skin and respiratory system from harmful elements in the environment, we often completely neglect to protect our eyes. However, factors like pollutants, toxins, chemicals, smoke, bacteria, and UV radiation can definitely impact your vision and eye health. How can you mitigate the damage? Let’s take a look at how the environment affects your eyes, and how measures like an annual eye appointment can help protect your vision.

Your eye is wonderfully designed, with natural protection from the eyelid, eyelashes, and tears that help keep out elements like wind, dust, and bright light. However, since you need to keep your eyes open in order to see, these measures can only go so far. When you repeatedly expose your eyes to dangerous environmental factors, this can damage your eyes and cause vision loss. Short term damage can be caused by air pollutants given off by vehicles, factories, cleaning products, and smoke. This kind of damage includes things like inflammation, irritation, and dry eye. These short-term effects are noticeable but generally not very serious. Long term vision damage can also occur because of environmental pollution, however, and this can have serious, sometimes irreversible consequences. Air pollution can enter the bloodstream through the respiratory system, damaging the tiny blood vessels of the eye and causing age-related macular degeneration and even blindness. Pollution has also been linked to glaucoma, which can lead to permanent vision loss. UV radiation damages the eyes, too, causing photokeratitis, which is essentially a sunburn of the eyes. Of course, UV radiation also damages the cells of the eyes, in the same way it damages cells in other parts of the body, and can cause not only cataracts and age related macular degeneration, but also cancer.

What can you do to protect your eyes from the damaging factors in the environment?

  • Wear protective glasses. When you’re out in the sun, wear UV protective sunglasses. When your eyes are likely to be exposed to pollutants, wear protective glasses. When you swim, wear goggles.
  • Don’t rub your eyes. As much as it might feel like a relief to rub burning, itching, irritated eyes, this can actually damage your eyes. Typically, eye irritation is caused by a foreign substance in the eye, and rubbing your eyes can spread it or cause an abrasion on the surface of your eye.
  • Use eye drops. To sooth irritated eyes without rubbing them and causing further damage, use high-quality lubricating eye drops. This will help rinse pollutants out of your eyes and can also forestall the development of dry eye.
  • See your eye doctor regularly. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends annual eye appointments, so that your eye doctor can keep an eye out for any problems with your eyes and catch them before they become serious. Your eye doctor can tell the difference between environmental problems and more serious issues. It’s also important to schedule an appointment any time there’s a change in your vision, whether the cause is environmental or not.

If you’re looking for an ophthalmologist or optometrist in Derry, Londonderry, Raymond or Windham, Spindel Eye Associates is here for you. Having spent over 35 years providing eye care in New Hampshire, our eye doctors proudly provide our patients with personalized eye care, using top of the line technology. For more information or to schedule an appointment call 603.421.6536 or contact us through our website.