Optometrist shares top tips to help Londoners protect their eyes from pollution

As the largest and most populated city in the UK, it’s no surprise that London is one of the most polluted cities.

Air pollution refers to the contamination of the atmosphere due to the release of chemical and biological pollutants into the air, which can have a detrimental effect on human health.

Pollution can be harmful to our bodies in many ways, and it can even have a negative impact on our eye health. Rishi Ganatra, Optometrist at Specsavers Swiss Cottage, shares his insight on how to protect your eyes from pollution as well as how to spot the symptoms.

The reason our eyes are particularly sensitive to pollution is because they are directly exposed to the elements every day, especially in a busy city such as London.

How can you protect your eyes from pollution?

It’s near enough impossible to avoid going outside and being faced with pollution, especially if you lead an active lifestyle, commute to work or work outdoors. Instead, we need to look at ways we can reduce the impact of pollution on our eyes when we’re outside.

Wearing glasses or sunglasses when you’re outside is a great way to shield your eyes from pollution, as they can stop any harmful chemicals or bacteria getting into your eyes. Even if you’re a contact lens wearer, I would suggest wearing glasses if you’re heading outside whenever possible.

Where possible, try to avoid walking in areas where there is lots of traffic, especially between 12pm to 4pm as this is when temperature and consequently air pollution will be at its highest.

There are four key symptoms you should look out for when looking at how pollution can affect your eyes:

Dry eyes – being exposed to higher levels of air pollution can cause your eyes to feel dry, and this is even more likely if you’re a contact lens wearer.
Irritated eyes – pollution can make your eyes feel irritated, including itchiness and them becoming watery.
Redness – due to the irritation caused to your eyes, this can then result in them becoming red and sore.
Blurred vision – in some more extreme cases, your eyes can become blurred due to high exposure to pollution.

How can you treat symptoms?

If you’re already experiencing any of the above symptoms, the best way to treat dry eyes is with drops. You can use these as often as you need, but I would suggest starting with two to three drops a day and this should start to soothe the symptoms.

On top of using drops, you can try using a heated eye mask when you get home to help unblock the oil glands that keep your eyes lubricated. Once you’re done, clean your hands and gently massage towards your lashes to help the oil flow from the glands.

The good news is that the short-term effects of air pollution will usually resolve, but longer-term exposure can result in an increased risk of cataracts (a cloudy build up in your eye lens), or even more severely, glaucoma (group of eye conditions which can cause vision loss).

If you have any vision concerns, it’s always worth getting your eyes checked at your local Specsavers to ensure there isn’t something more serious going on. We have 109 Specsavers stores across London meaning you can find one local to you with ease, or alternatively, we can bring the same great eye care to you at home via our team of mobile opticians.

Rishi Ganatra took to the streets of London to share his advice on the importance of eye health and the video can be accessed here: instagram.com/p/CydNuHqt6V3/#advertiser