Kolkata: Summer is already here and most of us would try to beat the heat by moving to cooler place with air conditioners and coolers. On an average, we might be spending around 14 to 16 hours per day in an air-conditioned room, a regular way to safe guard ourselves from hot climatic conditions. Less known fact is that these artificial air and temperature change caused by the AC’s do harm our health as well. From the largest organ of the body, the skin, to the immune system, to the most delicate organ the eyes could be affected by long term use of Air conditioners. Common complaints of people working in AC are that they feel dryness, irritation, grittiness, stickiness, itching, burning and watering from the eyes. They are developing a problem which is termed as the “Dry eye”, ‘Dry Eye Syndrome’ medically, says Dr. Shahnawaz Hossain, Senior Consultant – Ophthalmologist, Dr. Agarwal’s Eye Hospital, Kolkata.
Why Dry Eyes in AC: Adequate quality and quantity of tears in the eyes is essential for smooth feeling and functioning of the eyes. The Dry eye syndrome is the change in quality or quantity of the three layers of the tear film – Oily (exterior), water/aqueous layer (middle) and protein (inner).
In an air-conditioned room especially in very low temperatures, there is of loss of humidity, the air becomes extremely dry and cause evaporation from the watery layer of tear film, causing evaporative dry eyes and subsequently long term exposure to such AC can also alter the lipid production from glands in the eye lids causing both change in quality and quantity of tear film and hence dry eyes. Without lubrication, the eyes are more vulnerable to inflammation and infection leading to worse situation.
The poor hygiene of air-conditioning facilities is among the main cause for proliferation of virus, bacteria and fungi. Dryness and pro infection condition in AC due to dryness leads to eyes inflammation and infections.
Major Symptoms: Symptoms of dry eyes and dry eye syndrome are Burning, dryness, grittiness, Itchiness, Aching sensations, Heaviness, watering from the eyes and blurred vision. 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 are: The natural aging process, especially menopause problems and hence women are more affected by dry eyes. Certain medical conditions including diabetes, thyroid disorders and Vitamin A deficiency. Side effects of certain drugs like antihistamines. Laser eye surgery, though symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary. Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation. Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases. Problems that don’t allow your eyelids to close the way they should. Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation. Air pollution -people in metros like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai are few times more likely to be diagnosed with dry eye syndrome than the other towns with relatively little air pollution. Prolonged staring/usage of computer/mobile phones.
Tips to Prevent Dry Eyes: Try to minimise and decrease the number of hours of using air-conditioned rooms, setting of AC temperature around 23 degree C and above is recommended. Avoid sitting with your face facing air conditioners thereby preventing eyes being directly exposed to air from air-conditioners. Place a small open bowl of fresh water in corner of room you sit with air conditioner to maintain humidity of air the room, thereby preventing dry skin and dry eyes. Drink enough liquids over a day. Frequent conscious blinking when using computer or mobile phones which will help in appropriate distribution of tear film. Have a traditional 7 – 8 hours of sleep which will give adequate rest to eyes. Consider wearing sun glasses or protective eye wears. Follow recommendations and prescriptions from an Eye doctor on eye medications and in-office procedures to help your body create and secrete more tears and to decrease eye irritation and inflammation. Use lubricating eye drops as prescribed by Ophthalmologists only with regular follow ups suggested.
If precautionary methods are not followed to prevent Dry eyes, as explained, people would also develop eye infections. In case of untreated dry eyes as severity and duration of dry eyes increase, patient might develop damage to corneal surface (abrasion), corneal ulcer and serious vision problems. Prevention is always better than cure.