Environ Pollut. 2024 Feb 2:123488. doi: 10.1016/j.envpol.2024.123488. Online ahead of print.
Exposure to air pollutants, especially in the case of particulate matter (PM), poses significant health risks throughout the body. The ocular surface is directly exposed to atmospheric PM making it challenging to avoid. This constant exposure makes the ocular surface a valuable model for investigating the impact of air pollutants on the eyes. This comprehensive review assembles evidence from across the spectrum, from in vitro and in vivo investigations to clinical studies, offering a thorough understanding of how PM10 and PM2.5 affect the health of the ocular surface. PM has been primarily found to induce inflammatory responses, allergic reactions, oxidative stress, DNA damage, mitochondrial impairment, and inhibit the proliferation and migration of ocular surface cells. In toto these effects ultimately lead to impaired wound healing and ocular surface damage. In addition, PM can alter tear composition. These events contribute to ocular diseases such as dry eye disease, blepharitis, conjunctivitis, keratitis, limbal stem cell deficiency and pterygium. Importantly, preexisting ocular conditions such as dry eye, allergic conjunctivitis, and infectious keratitis can be worsened by PM exposure. Adaptive responses may partially alleviate the mentioned insults, resulting in morphological and physiological changes that could be different between periods of short-term and long-term exposure. Particle size is not the only determinant of the ocular effect of PM, the composition and solubility of PM also play critical roles. Increasing awareness of how PM affects the ocular surface is crucial in the field of public health, and mechanistic insights of these adverse effects may provide guidelines for preventive and therapeutic strategies in dealing with a polluted environment.