Smoke from wildfire can take its toll on eyes

October 29, 2007

San Francisco-People exposed to smoke from the southern California wildfires should be aware of hazards to their eyes. Smoke can cause irritation, with symptoms such as burning sensations, redness, and tearing.

San Francisco-People exposed to smoke from the southern California wildfires should be aware of hazards to their eyes. Smoke can cause irritation, with symptoms such as burning sensations, redness, and tearing.

"Even a healthy person's eyes can be bothered by prolonged exposure to smoke," said Robert N. Weinreb, MD, distinguished professor of ophthalmology at the University of California, San Diego, and clinical correspondent for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Exposure to smoke can also exacerbate symptoms for some patients, particularly those with dry eye syndrome."

To relieve the smoke-related irritation over-the-counter artificial tears are available. However, if irritation persists consult your ophthalmologist.

A lingering hazard to eyes after the smoke is gone is barely visible ash and dust, which can remain in fire devastated areas for up to 2 weeks after fires have been extinguished.