The winter season has arrived, and with it can come a myriad of eye-related issues. One of the most common we hear about is dry eyes. This month, we’re featuring tips and guidance on how to best support your eye health during the cold weather seasons and how you can treat and protect yourself from dry eye in winter.
What is Dry Eye?
When the eyes do not produce enough tears, this results in dry eye. Dry eye can also occur when the eyes do not make the right type of tears or tear film. Since our eyes need tears to stay healthy and comfortable, dry eye can be a frustrating and debilitating issue during cold months.
Why Does Dry Eye Occur in Winter?
As the air naturally cools into the winter season, it loses the humidity of summer. Without the humidity, the cool crisp air tends to dry out the natural moisture of the eyes more quickly. As the outdoor conditions become colder and winter winds continue to pick up, dry eye symptoms can be further exacerbated.
Inside our homes too, furnaces kick on and heating systems blow warm, dry air into and around our living spaces. While we are fortunate that this keeps us warm, it can also result in burning and itching sensations lingering around our eyes.
How to Protect Against Dry Eye
When it comes to dry eye in winter, there are several things that can be done to help prevent irritating eye problems:
- Blink often – especially when doing focused tasks like computer work, reading, or driving. Keeping your eyes moistened and allowing your eyelids to take a small pause for recovery is crucial.
- Use a humidifier – combat dry air by using a whole-home humidifier or, at a minimum, keep a humidifier running in the rooms you spend the most time in.
- Wear sunglasses outside – it is just as important during the winter months as it is in the summer to protect eyes with sunglasses. Sunglasses will provide a welcome shield against cold wind and protect eyes from harmful UV rays that can reflect off of snow.
How to Treat Dry Eye
If you are already experiencing symptoms of dry eye, below is guidance on how to treat the issue. Make sure you are working closely with your ophthalmologist and continuing comprehensive eye exams to ensure you have the proper treatment for your situation:
- Use hydration and/or drops – drink water regularly to keep the entire body hydrated. Your ophthalmologist may also recommend or prescribe artificial tear eye drops to lubricate the eyes and prevent the natural tear layer from evaporating too quickly.
- Save tears – Your ophthalmologist may recommend blocking your tear ducts, to help natural tears stay in the eyes longer. Tiny silicone or gel plugs may be inserted into the tear ducts and removed at a later time as needed.
- Eye care – there are a variety of eye care remedies that can be prescribed, but an ophthalmologist may recommend warm compresses on the eyes or eyelid massages to help treat dry eye.
The winter season can be a very fun and exciting time, and we do not want dry eye to interfere with that enjoyment. If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye, or need to make your comprehensive eye exam appointment, contact our team today.