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In December 2015, the city of Beijing, China issued its first “Red Alert” warning to its citizens because of the extreme levels of toxic smog in the air. In the United States, pollution has been a problem (not on par with Beijing) in some cities, and it got us thinking about the public’s awareness of the effects of pollution on your vision.

When you look at pictures of people in polluted cities, such as Beijing, you often see them wearing masks, but many don’t protect their eyes. Unfortunately, this neglect can lead to development of dry eye syndrome, in turn leading to opportunities for further vision problems to develop.

WHAT IS DRY EYE SYNDROME?

Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes cannot produce enough tears or quality tears to lubricate your eyes. Lubrication protects your your eyes from being damaged, infected, or irritated by foreign objects, including dust, germs, and smoke.

Dry eye syndrome symptoms include red, itchy, burning sensations, overproduction of tears, and excessive blinking. The condition is typically treated with over-the-counter or prescription eye drops. More extreme cases require punctal plugs, a minor procedure that helps preserve the tears you produce. Doctors may also recommend an omega-3 enriched diet because it promotes healthy tears.

HOW IS POLLUTION LINKED TO DRY EYE SYNDROME?

The term smog is a combination of two words: smoke and fog. As we previously mentioned, your eyes’ lubrication serves to protect from foreign agents, including smoke. If you’ve ever had smoke in your eyes from a campfire, you know how irritating the feeling can be. Even worse, smog is more than just a clever term for the smoky and foggy appearance of the pollution; it is composed of harmful particles you don’t want in your eyes.

Studies are showing that smog is directly linked to dry eye-syndrome, so if you’re in an area that experiences high levels of pollution in the atmosphere, you may want to consider looking into protecting your eyes as well as the rest of your health.

Dry-eye syndrome still affects millions of Americans every year. Smog isn’t the only risk factor. Aging often correlates with dry-eye syndrome. Medications, illnesses, and damaged tear ducts also attribute to dry eye syndrome. Please make an appointment with your eye doctor if you think you’re suffering from dry eye syndrome.

Do you have any questions about dry eye syndrome, whether it’s from pollution or other causes? Contact Silverstein Eye Centers today at (816) 358-3600 or request your appointment online. We can serve you at our convenient location in Independence/Kansas City.

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