Harsh winter weather is commonly linked to dry, itchy skin, but did you know that this cold, snowy season can have similar effects on your eyes?
Disclaimer: These tips are not a substitute for professional medical advice from your optometrist. If you suffer from chronic or severe dry eyes or experience any eye pain, contact your eye doctor.
Common dry eye symptoms
- Red eyes
- Burning or stinging in eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Foreign body sensation
- Light sensitivity
- Contact lens discomfort
- Blurry vision
- Eye fatigue
How to prevent winter dry eyes
- Blink often. Blinking helps to keep the eyes lubricated and healthy. When we blink, the eyelids spread the tears over the front of the eyes, continuously redistributing the tear film to ensure that the eyes remain hydrated and moist.
- Try artificial tears. Artificial tears act as a substitute for your natural tears, when your eyes cannot produce enough fluid to maintain moisture. These over-the-counter eye drops or ointments can help relieve mild dry eye symptoms. They can be used as often as needed to increase eye moisture and comfort.
Caution: Avoid using eye drops that claim to remove eye redness, as these drops may help temporarily, but in the long run can actually worsen dry eyes.
- Clean your eyelids. Your eyelids contain tiny oil producing glands. This oil (meibum) contributes to the tear film, maintaining the tears and ensuring that they do not evaporate too quickly. Cleaning your eyelids from makeup and debris on a daily basis will help to keep your oil producing glands healthy and prevent them from becoming clogged.
- Warm compresses every night. Warm, wet compresses can help to soothe dry eye symptoms and open any blocked oil glands in the eyelids. Make this part of your bedtime routine to improve eye moisture and help you to relax after a long hard day.
- Use a humidifier. Dry heat can cause your tears to evaporate more quickly and worsen dry eye symptoms. To protect your eyes (and skin) from drying out, keep a humidifier on throughout the night. Some humidifiers can even be perched on your desk at work, helping to protect your eyes while you’re at the office too.
- Drink plenty of water. Drinking water throughout the day is not only healthy, but also helps to keep your skin and eyes hydrated. If water doesn’t appeal to you, try adding lemon or brewing some herbal tea.
Please note: While we live in a fast paced world where coffee is one of the most popular beverages, be mindful of your daily caffeine intake because caffeine is a diuretic and can actually worsen your dry eye symptoms.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors. Sunglasses with polarized lenses will shield your eyes from harsh winter winds that can cause dry eyes, and harmful UV rays that continue to radiate from the sun even when it’s cloudy outside.
- Visit your optometrist. If your eyes have the tendency to become severely dry or irritated, visit your optometrist before the winter weather sets in. Your eye doctor can discuss the different treatment options that are available to you, including prescription medication and in-office treatments.
Winter dry eyes can be quite uncomfortable and greatly impact your performance of daily activities. Follow these 8 tips to help your eyes stay moist and comfortable this season— you can even include them in your New Year’s resolutions.