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Smog: How it affects the eye

A boy sits on the shoulder of his mother as they participate in a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Nov. 6, 2016. Even for a city considered one of the worlds dirtiest, the Indian capital hit a new low this week. Air so dirty you can taste and smell it; a gray haze that makes a gentle stroll a serious health hazard. According to one advocacy group, government data shows that the smog that enveloped the city midweek was the worst in the last 17 years. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

First, it was the irritation, later, Debiparna Chakraborty saw that her eyes were red and swollen. The 28-year-old media professional has been living in Delhi for four years now and of late, the time during and after Diwali has become extremely trying for her. This year was no better. “My eyes have been itchy and irritable since the smog set in. Some days I wake up with swollen red eyes. I have to splash it with water several times a day,” she says. “Sometimes even that doesn’t help. Nor does air purifiers,” she adds. At present on antibiotics, Chakraborty says the medicines have helped in curbing the itchiness.

Anjali Nayar, another media professional says, “Post Diwali, I would experience irritation in my eyes after a bike ride or if I spent too much time outside. My eyes used to irritate and then they would become watery. Sometimes it occurred in just one eye, at other times in both”. The cause of discomfort was the same as Chakraborty’s – smog.


A thick haze of smog has enveloped the city for days now. On Tuesday (November 13) a PTI report stated that the air quality in the capital remained severe. According to the same report, the level of PM2.5 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometres) and PM10 (particles in the air with a diameter of less than 10 micrometres) in was recorded at 238 and 399 respectively in Delhi.

The pollution has severe health hazards and affects the eye as well. Dr Sudipto Pakrasi, who leads the Ophthalmology division at Medanta, Gurgaon, admits that the frequency of patients complaining of eye soreness, redness, burning sensation increases significantly post Diwali every year.

“Post-Diwali we see a huge increase in the number of people coming with these symptoms. These are related to commonly found air pollutants like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, arsenic, asbestos, benzene, lead, chlorofluorocarbons, particulate matters, and dioxin,” he says.

“During Diwali, the most common conditions which people experience and come to an eye specialist for is allergic conjunctivitis. This causes redness in the eye and watering. The increase in the dust level leads to blurry vision,” says Dr Radhi Malar, Ophthalmologist at the Fortis Malar Hospital.

At such times, taking basic preventive measures go a long way. “Try to wear glasses during this time. They act as a barrier. However, do avoid contact lenses as they tend to aggravate allergy,” says Dr Parul Sharma, Ophthalmologist at Max Multi Speciality Centre Panchsheel Park and Max Hospital Gurgaon.

“General hygiene is a must when it comes to avoiding eye problems. Washing of hands, wearing protective eye wear like polarized sunglasses while travelling outside and maintaining a good and healthy lifestyle is important,” Malar says. However, Pakrasi maintains that in case redness in the eye persists, or there is a prolonged burning sensation in the eyes for some time, consulting a doctor is a must.

The effect of smog is not a recent phenomenon. Milap Kashyap, a 25-year-old who works at a corporate bank, recollects the scare he faced last year. “Last year during Diwali, my eyes reddened and after four days, a thin blue line appeared along with the redness. Panicking, I went to consult a doctor. He gave me some medicines and suggested that I do some tests,” he says. “However, things quickly worsened and my eyesight in my left eye became blurred. I visited Center for Sight in Safdurjung where I had to undergo a couple of more tests. After some doctor consultation, I was finally given spectacles with cylindrical numbers. I wore it for 10 days and then gradually recovered,” he added.

The problem, clearly, has become a fixture with the festive season. Long after the spark from the crackers has been put out, a dark cloud of gloom surrounds us and it refuses to subside.