As large parts of India see extreme temperatures, experts have sounded alarm bells about eye infections that the ongoing heatwave may cause. Infections caused by exposure to high temperatures range from mild itching and redness to conjunctivitis, sties, and a greater risk of cataract from unprotected exposure of sun's ultra-violet rays.
Besides heat, high levels of pollutants and irritants in the air also pose a challenge. The symptoms may include itchiness, redness of the eyes or a burning sensation.
Here you will read about the various conditions that unprotected exposure to extreme temperatures can cause and what precautions you should take.
How can heatwave affect your eyes?
Dr Chikirsha Jain, a senior consultant at Agra's Ujala Cygnus Rainbow Hospital told PTI, "Our eyes become sensitive during summer, so it is essential to protect them. Even if you are wearing contact lenses, wearing eyeglasses can protect your eyes.”
In case one does not use proper eye protection, they can also develop dry eyes as the tear film in the eye can evaporate more quickly. If left untreated, the condition may lead to eye inflammation.
Dr. Rishi Raj Borah, Country Director, Orbis India, said, "Exposure to sun's ultraviolet rays during the summer months can increase the risk of various eye conditions, reiterating the imperativeness of regular eye examinations. As schools have reopened now, eye examination must be considered as a mandate in school readiness.
“Studies show that the pandemic has increased the number of children who may be identified with myopia and those who have refractive error may further need correction.”
What are health risks from heatwave?
Dr Tushar Grover, Medical Director of Delhi-based Vision Eye Centre, told PTI, "Allergies, infections such as conjunctivitis and dry eye are some of the conditions. We need to be extra careful as these conditions can worsen if timely medical advice is not followed.”
Some common conditions caused by extreme temperatures are —
Conjunctivitis, commonly known as “pink eye”, is an infection or swelling in the thin, transparent membrane that lies over the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white part of your eye, according to Healthline. Its symptoms are pink or red-toned eyes, watery or thick discharge that builds up on your eyes at night, itchiness, and abnormal amount of tears.
Stye is a bacterial infection that causes tiny swelling on either one or both of the eyelids, according to America's Milauskas Eye Institute. It involves pain, swelling, and redness, and is common in children.
Dry eyes is a condiction in which tears are not able to give lubrication to eyes. In high temperatures, the eyes' tear film may evaporate too soon because and eye may become red and irritated with a burning sensation, as per the Milauskas Institute.
Besides these common conditions, extreme temperatures may cause serious harm too.
Max Healthcare's Dr Sanjay Dhawan told The Times of India, "Accumulated heat exposure can also lead to ocular burn, cataracts, macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, cancer and pterygium, a fleshy growth of the cornea. It can also produce adaptation, papillary reflex and shading of the eyes."
How to protect your eyes from these conditions?
General summer well-being tips are a must — stay hydrated, maintain facial and hand hygeine, wear glasses when outdoors, avoid sharing towels or cosmetics, don't rub or touch your eyes, etc.
You should also be careful with your glasses and may wear them in the sun even if you use contact lenses. A report in The Times of India noted, "Gray-coloured lenses reduce light intensity without altering the colour of objects, providing the most natural colour vision. See a sunglass lens on how much UV radiation it absorbs."
You should seek professional healthcare if you experience any of the symptoms or conditions listed above or any discomfort regarding your eyes.
(With PTI inputs)