Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Prolonged exposure to air-conditioning bad for eye contacts

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

People who wear contact lenses or have to use computers for a substantial period of time every day are advised by doctors not to stay too long in an air-conditioned rooms.

According to the director of the Ophthalmology Department at Shutien Memorial Hospital Yen Min-fang (顏敏芳), staying in an air-conditioned room too long in the summertime may contribute to xerophthalmia, or dryness of eyeballs.

Xerophthalmia victims usually complain about sore eyes, itchiness and eye infections, Yen said in an telephone interview.

Dry eyes

Those who wear contacts, especially soft lens users, need more moisture to keep the lenses from falling off, but moisture easily dries off in an air-conditioned room, she said.

Those who use computesr for long stretches at a time stare at the screen often and blink less, which may expose the cornea to more dry air in a room with air-conditioning, she added.

Yen suggested that middle-aged women also avoid staying in air-conditioned rooms too long because hormonal changes mean they already have insufficient tear secretion.

Allergies

People who often suffer allergic reactions in the eyes should also avoid allergens trapped in air-conditioner filters, she added.

Although it has not yet been proven that sties result from remaining in an air-conditioned room for long periods, lack of moisture may block the glands at the base of eyelashes, she said.

This can lead to swelling.

She said some patients even suffer from small abrasions in the cornea because of insufficient moisture in the air.

The number of patients seeking medical help at her clinic because of discomfort caused by air-conditioning has risen by 10 percent to 20 percent recently, Yen said.

Patients can try placing a cup of hot water in the room to add more humidity to the air, she suggested.

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