Tips to protect your eyes from air conditioning
Air conditioning dries out the eyes. It is something that no one can deny, but there is no reason to resign yourself. In extreme heat, giving up good cooling is not an option, and in many environments – hospitals, workplaces, homes – air conditioning is the only way to achieve a comfortable temperature. Just as we protect other parts of our bodies, such as our throats, we can take steps to keep our eyes in tip-top condition.
The explanation of the main ocular discomfort caused by refrigeration systems is simple. Air conditioning “removes moisture from the air, and cold, dry air can cause eye irritation, leading to the development of dry eye syndrome.” Patients with this condition “may present with a feeling of grittiness, nonspecific eye discomfort, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, redness and/or eye fatigue.”
If the eyes are always dry, they are more prone to certain injuries, “such as chronic conjunctivitis and the appearance of pinguecula / pterygium (a degeneration of the conjunctiva, the transparent membrane that covers the surface of the eye.”
Who should be more careful?
No one is safe from suffering eye dryness to a greater or lesser extent, especially when the exposure is continuous or stays next to the sources of air outlet. However, some people are especially vulnerable, such as “those already diagnosed with dry eye syndrome or contact lens wearers, as well as those patients with corneal damage such as ulcers and/or keratitis, or who usually suffer from allergic conjunctivitis” , summarize the specialists.
Particularly sensitive to the effects of air conditioning are “those who suffer from water-deficient dry eyes (they do not produce tears) and also those who have evaporative dry eyes (poor quality of tears)”.
This last type “is closely associated with blepharitis, which is an inflammation of the edge of the eyelid that is frequent in menopausal women and is very common in contact lens wearers, as well as in patients suffering from styes and individuals with hormonal problems or pathology of rosacea-like skin.
In those especially vulnerable people, would the use of air conditioning be contraindicated? In most cases it is not necessary to go to that extreme if additional precautions are taken, such as avoiding environments that are too dry: “Not only the temperature must be taken into account, but also the environmental humidity. Air conditioning in a low humidity environment can cause more discomfort for a dry eye patient, especially if there is a constant draft.”
In this group of patients more predisposed to have complications, in case of not being able to avoid exposure, in addition to ensuring that the direct jet of air falls on the eyes, “the use of artificial tears is recommended.”
Guidelines to prevent eye problems
These are the measures recommended by ophthalmologists to protect the eyes from the effects of air conditioning:
- Prevent the airflow from hitting the face directly, especially in the car.
- Frequently ventilate refrigerated spaces with air conditioning.
- Use humidifiers -especially at home- to avoid moisture loss caused by air conditioning.
- Use purifying filters, in order to reduce allergens, bacteria and dust.
- Hydrate adequately to reduce the sensation of heat and, with it, the use of air conditioning.
- Avoid environments loaded with tobacco smoke, pollution, etc.
- Take periodic breaks when working with screens in places with artificial ventilation.
Products that relieve dry eyes
There are different treatments to improve dry eye syndrome, whether caused by air conditioning or any other cause.
Regarding the use of eye drops and other products, “the use of artificial tears without preservatives would be the treatment of first choice, added to good hygiene of the eyelids and good handling and cleaning of contact lenses in patients lens wearers.
In more advanced cases or in patients with previous underlying pathologies, ophthalmologists can prescribe “regenerative treatments such as PRGF, derived from the patient’s own blood plasma, among others.”
Along with the use of artificial tears if necessary, it is essential to maintain good hygiene, since “clean eyes mean a better quality of own tears.” It also considers it advisable to follow a healthy diet and, in particular, one rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Lastly, those who suffer from persistent dry eyes “go to a specialist to find out the cause of dry eye”, since there are different types and the treatment must be individualized.
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