Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

Air Quality and the Eyes

The recent air disturbances in the Northeastern United States due to wildfires in Canada triggered much concern about people with various health concerns, particularly related to conditions like asthma and other respiratory issues. Air pollution can have a significant impact on vision and on certain eye diseases as well. During the height of the crisis, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) warned that exposure to the fine particulates circulating can cause short-term health effects, such as eye irritation, along with exacerbating medical conditions like asthma and heart disease. Previous scientific studies have provided additional information regarding the effects of air pollution on the eyes. Findings have indicated that outdoor pollution may “exacerbate dry eye disease” and can trigger conjunctivitis, for example. Air pollutants have also been associated with “abnormal development of the neural retina” as well as an increased likelihood of being diagnosed with glaucoma. Studies have also described “myopic macular degeneration, age-related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy in association with air pollution.” For more information on air pollution and the eyes, read these National Institutes of Health (NIH) articles: from the National Library of Medicine, The Adverse Effects of Air Pollution on the Eye: A Review, and from the National Eye Institute (NEI), Hopkins Vision Researcher Links Environmental Change to Eye Health Hazards. To learn about the current air quality in your area, visit the website for AirNow.