Itchy, burning eyes? Saharan dust is probably the culprit

The onslaught of Saharan dust can be a real ordeal for allergy sufferers and those without a history of allergy.

The presence of Saharan dust can even cause some distress to our eyes.

To help us better understand how Saharan dust can affect our vision, Loop News spoke with Nikkisha Bachan, optometrist at SeeVu Optical.

She explained, “On the surface of our eyes there is a tear film that helps maintain eye health and function. This tear film consists of three layers which are produced and supplied by different cells and glands which are part of the ocular system.

If pollutants, in this case Saharan dust, from the atmosphere were to enter the eyes and disrupt the production of, or any part of the tear layer, then this would lead to many different signs and symptoms; itching, burning, watery eyes, redness, eyelid swelling and tenderness, FBS (foreign body sensation), sticky discharge, eye pain and even headache.

Bachan noted that the dust can, in some cases, lead to eye infection.

People should also be aware that exposure to pollutants can worsen pre-existing eye symptoms or conditions.

Some conditions exacerbated by the presence of Saharan dust include:

KCS (keratoconjunctivitis sicca); allergic conjunctivitis; keratoconus; Autoimmune conditions that cause KCS such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.

Hormonal issues like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and thyroid dysfunction, and even hormonal changes such as those associated with menopause cause dry eyes, and dryness can become even more bothersome in the presence of Saharan dust.

Bachan noted that people who must take medication for conditions like diabetes and women who use birth control are also at risk, and using these treatments increases the likelihood of dry eye symptoms.

So what can people do to avoid the terrible effects of Saharan dust on their eyes?

The optometrist advised people to stay hydrated and eat foods that promote good eye health and tear production. A dust mask can also help relieve symptoms. Regular washing of sheets, pillowcases and curtains will also help reduce dust accumulation.

Bachan said the eye drops can offer some relief from bothersome dryness and dryness caused by Saharan dust.

“See an optometrist for an eye health assessment, so they can recommend an eye drop (that’s right for you) that can be used to keep your eyes moist,” she said.

She stressed that people should avoid touching their face and eyes as much as possible during dust spells.

She offered additional helpful advice: “If symptoms develop or have developed before, do warm compresses and eyelid/lash cleansing techniques as advised by an optometrist. Avoid heavy makeup around the eyes, including false eyelashes.

For eyeglass wearers, she encouraged washing lenses at the end of the day, especially for those with anti-reflective coating on the lenses.

Contact lens wearers should limit wearing time and wear glasses instead, if possible, especially if they work outdoors.

“It is strongly recommended that contact lens wearers consult their optometrist on how to manage any issues related to Saharan dust, whether it’s changing how often they replace their lenses or the drops they may use with their lenses, an individual assessment would be beneficial,” she added.

Bachan said people experiencing difficulty with their eyes brought on by the presence of Saharan dust should see their optometrist immediately for intervention.

About Marion Alexander

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