Wildfire smoke above a two lane highway in BC. Snow peaked mountains are in the background, with green evergreen trees lining the highway in the foreground. A heavy cloud of smoke covers the top third of the photo, and the rest of the sky has a light orange hue from the smoke.

Is it Wildfire Smoke or Dry Eye Disease?

In British Columbia, it’s wildfire season again. This year has been especially bad for wildfires in Canada. Depending where you live or where you travel, you might be encountering a lot more wildfire smoke than normal. All that smoke contains particles and matter which can greatly irritate your eyes, and can cause symptoms that are quite similar to Dry Eye Disease:

  • dry and/or itchy eyes
  • redness in the eyes
  • a feeling of grit or sand in your eyes

Wildfire smoke can affect anyone, while Dry Eye Disease is most common for people over the age of 40, those who have a family history of dry eye disease, people who wear contact lenses, those who spend a lot of their time looking at screens, and smokers.

Unlike Dry Eye Disease, it may be possible to minimize the irritation in your eyes caused by wildfire smoke by:

  • remaining indoors as much as possible with filtered air
  • wearing protective eye wear that seals around your eyes when outdoors
  • rinsing your eyes with artificial tears
  • cleaning your eyelashes and eyebrows
  • avoiding rubbing your eyes

Unfortunately there are only limited studies about optical health and wildfire smoke. But similar studies on cigarettes and eyes found that smoke and toxins from cigarettes were linked to an increased risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. So as much as possible, it would be best to avoid wildfire smoke by staying indoors.

Because of wildfire smoke, it might be difficult to determine if your eyes feel irritated by the contaminants in the air or if you may be suffering from Dry Eye Disease. It’s also possible these symptoms are of a separate undiagnosed issue with your eyes. If you are still feeling the effects of wildfire season (despite trying the above tips) or if you feel these symptoms after summer comes to a close, consider contacting us to book an eye exam or a dry eye consultation.

This post is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice or delay in seeking treatment because of information found on this website. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor (the Royal Oak Optometry Clinic phone number is 250-479-8206) or dial 911.

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