Summer is here and most of us would try to beat the heat by using air conditioners and coolers. On an average, we spend around 14-16 hours per day in an air-conditioned (AC) room to safe guard ourselves from the heat. Less known fact is that the artificial air and temperature changes caused by the AC’s do harm our health. “The most delicate organ being the eyes could be affected by long term use of air conditioners. Common complaints of people working in AC are dryness, irritation, grittiness, itching, burning sensation and watering from the eyes. These symptoms are collectively termed as the ‘Dry eye syndrome’,” says Dr. Sanjana Vatsa, Consultant Ophthalmologist Dr. Agarwal Eye Hospital, Bangalore.
WHAT CAUSES DRY EYES WHEN EXPOSED TO AC
Adequate quantity and good quality of tears is essential for smooth functioning of the eyes.
The Dry eye syndrome is characterised by change in quality or quantity of the three layers of the tear film namely – The external oily layer, middle water/aqueous layer and inner protein layer.
“In an air-conditioned room especially in very low temperatures, there is loss of humidity, the air becomes extremely dry and causes evaporation of tears, thus causing evaporative dry eyes. Also long term exposure to AC can alter the lipid production from glands in the eyelids causing changes in both quality and quantity of tear film and hence dry eyes. Without adequate lubrication, the eyes are more vulnerable to inflammation and infection, thus worsening the condition,” adds Dr. Vatsa.
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include burning sensation, foreign body sensation, grittiness, itching, redness, heaviness, watering of eyes and blurring of vision. Also the reading speed can slow down for dry eye suffers and the rate decreases as the severity increases.
THE OTHER IMPORTANT CAUSES OF DRY EYE
▪ Usage of computers/ mobile phones for long duration – This reduces the blink rate and increases evaporation of tears, thus causing dry eye syndrome
▪ The natural aging process, hormonal variations during menopause can cause dry eyes in elderly women
▪ Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders and Vitamin A deficiency
▪ Side effects of certain drugs like antihistamines, Isotretinoin etc.
▪ Laser eye surgery, although symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary
▪ Tear gland damage from inflammation or irradiation
▪ Diseases that affect the ability to secrete tears such as Sjogren’s syndrome, Rheumatoid arthritis and Collagen vascular diseases
▪ Nerve palsy that don’t allow the eyelids to close completely
▪ Air pollution – people in metros are more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome than the other towns with relatively lesser air pollution.
TIPS TO PREVENT DRY EYES
▪ Minimise and decrease the number of hours of exposure to AC. Setting of AC temperature around 23 degree C and above is recommended.
▪ Avoid sitting with your face facing air conditioners, thereby preventing the evaporation of tears from the eyes.
▪ Place a small open bowl of fresh water in the corner of your air conditioned room to maintain humidity of air, thereby preventing dry skin and dry eyes.
▪ Drink plenty of fluids and keep yourself well hydrated
▪ Conscious frequent blinking when using computer or mobile phones will help in reducing the evaporation of tears from the eyes
▪ Have a traditional 7 – 8 hours of sleep which will give adequate rest to the eyes.
▪ Consider wearing UV protective sun glasses in the outdoors
▪ Use lubricating eye drops as prescribed by Ophthalmologists with regular follow ups as suggested
“Prevention is always better than cure. Thus follow recommendations and prescriptions from an eye doctor on eye medications and in-office procedures to help your eyes secrete adequate amount of good quality tears, thereby reducing the chances of dry eye syndrome,” sums up Dr Vatsa.
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