3 Ways Your Indoor Environment Can Sabotage Your Eyes

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You probably regard your home as your refuge from the world's irritations; a place where you can expect to feel comfortable and healthy. But if your eyes are constantly causing you grief in the form of redness, irritation, chronic dryness or even repeated infections, some aspect of your indoor environment may be the culprit. Here are three common threats to your ocular well being that may be lurking in your home -- along with steps you can take to control them.


Dust is a fact of life for most residences, no matter how neat and tidy the occupants may be. The human body produces a great deal of the material we consider "dust" in the form of dead skin cells that are sloughed off on a regular basis. These skin cells are food for countless tiny dust mites who then leave their corpses and fecal matter throughout the home -- all of which is too small to see with the naked eye. This debris can produce allergy symptoms, including eye burning, watering and irritation, in sensitive individuals. Pollen and pet dander also feature prominently in your home's dust collection, and these items can cause allergic reactions as well. 

Dusting, mopping and vacuuming your home is only part of the struggle to keep your home dust free. Central air conditioning can blow dust-ridden air throughout the home; some of this dust may accumulate in the ductwork, ready to fly out into various rooms the next time the AC turns on. Dust may also settle in the filters, clogging them and reducing the air conditioner's efficiency. Change dusty AC air filters frequently and have your air conditioning service evaluate the ducts to see whether they need cleaning.

2. Mold Spores

Wherever there is moisture and darkness, mold is sure to appear sooner or later. The spores from this type of fungus spread from place to place by floating through the air -- including the air of many household interiors. Occupants who happen to be allergic to mold may experience burning, itching or watery eyes as a result. Some molds release toxins that also cause eye irritation. In some rare cases, mold spores can even penetrate the eye to cause a sight-robbing infection known as endophthalmitis.

Moisture control is critical for mold control. Running your air conditioner regularly can help draw moisture out of the air, but air conditioning problems can create mold issues of their own. For instance, if your condensate and drain pans are collecting water due to a line clog or other malfunction, they could harbor both standing water and mold. A leaky drain line or rusted-out pan could even allow water to drip onto your floor or run down your wall. Have your air conditioning service inspect the system regularly for just such problems. A relatively minor air conditioning repair job could spare your eyes a great deal of misery.

3. Dry Air

While your air conditioner can be enormously helpful in lowering your home's humidity level to control mold growth, excessive dryness in the air can become too much of a good thing as far as your eyes are concerned. That's because the eyes require constant protection, lubrication and hydration, which is normally provided by a combination of water, oils and mucous known as tear film. Extremely dry air from your HVAC system can cause the water in the tear film to evaporate faster than the tear ducts can replace it. This may cause a condition called dry eye syndrome, the symptoms of which can include redness, itchiness, distorted vision and a gritty "foreign body" feeling in the eye. Dry air may also aggravate a case of dry eye originally caused by some other underlying issue such as medications or health conditions.

Moderating your air conditioner use can help you experience less dryness in your eyes. Get a device that measures and displays the current humidity level in the home, aiming for an average humidity level of 60 to 70 percent. If you run a ceiling fan in your bedroom, turn it off so that the airflow over your head doesn't dry your eyes.

From fighting dust and mold to controlling the dryness of your air, you have the power to make your residence a more "eye-friendly" environment. Talk to your local air conditioning repair service about periodic maintenance and other smart steps for creating a healthier, more comfortable home!