Red Itchy Eyes and Water Contaminants

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Eyes are so important to us. Be able to see makes us react faster, and gives us a colorful world to appreciate. But eyes are so precious that it is also really fragile and sensitive.

Do you know the human eye is one of the most sensitive organs in our body? Being open, exposed and moist, it is one of those body parts that are easily susceptible to irritation. Any irritation to the eye generally causes it to appear red and watery, and can make it itchy. There are many factors that can cause this condition.

The most common cause of red itchy eyes is allergies. Allergies are a result of the body's overreaction to certain foreign particles that enter or come into contact with our body. Our immune system mistakenly perceives these harmless particles as a threat to our health, and to counter them, triggers the body's natural defense mechanism and releases chemicals called histamines. It is the excessive release of these histamines into our system that causes many of our allergic symptoms like itchy eyes, runny nose and sneezing. The most common allergens causing itchy, watery eyes are airborne irritants like dust, pollen and pet dander.

In addition to airborne particles, sometimes certain foods can also cause allergies. While most food allergies typically don't affect eyes, eating contaminated food or drinking or showering in contaminated water is occasionally known to cause eye irritations. Additionally, ingesting contaminated water is also known to cause a condition known as conjunctivitis, or pink eye, which is inflammation of the membrane that covers the white part of the eye, and the inner surface of the eyelid. Pink eye may not only cause watery, red itchy eyes, but it is also highly contagious.

The water pollutants that can cause eye irritations or infections can either be biological or chemical contaminants. Below are some of the water contaminants that are suspected to cause this condition:

  • There are studies that suggest that drinking water contaminated with Arsenic for a prolonged period of time can lead to chronic conjunctivitis.
  • Some herbicides that are used in agriculture for controlling grasses and broad-leaf weeds, like Alachlor and Atrazine, sometimes lead to water contamination. Alachlor, in particular, is known to cause skin and eye irritation upon ingestion.
  • When fertilizers pollute rivers, this can lead to the growth of Algae in rivers. Drinking water contaminated with Algae can lead to skin irritation and itchy eyes.
  • Excessive addition of rich nutrients to water bodies can sometimes lead to the origination of waterborne microorganisms. One example of such microbes is Pfiesteria piscicida, which can cause a range of symptoms in humans including respiratory and eye irritation.
  • Leptospira is a bacteria that is found in infected animal urine and animal tissue. Consuming food or water contaminated with this bacteria can cause Leptospirosis disease, whose symptoms include red itchy eyes.

Treatment for red itchy eyes generally depends on the cause of the symptom. If allergens are known to cause this concern, the best treatment is to avoid the source of the allergy. Oral antihistamines can also work well in this situation. Additionally, artificial tears or similar eye drops can alleviate the symptoms well, especially for allergies or dry eyes. For conjunctivitis or pink eye, antibiotic eye drops may be prescribed.

If water contamination is what is believed to be the source of eye irritation, it is critical to ensure that the drinking and shower water is filtered from chemicals and heavy metals. Drinking contaminated water causes several serious health concerns, and purifying water before drinking and bathing can not only help avoid eye irritations and eye infections like conjunctivitis, but also more serious, and even life-threatening diseases like Amoebiasis, Cholera, Dysentery, and Gastroenteritis.

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