Dry eyes are more common in harsh winter weather.

Winter eye care tips by Dr. Anchal Gupta, MBBS, MS - Ophthalmologist

Along with beautiful winters comes the risk that dropping temperatures, harsher winds, and dryer air will negatively impact our eyes’ health. Bright sun, reflective snow, and traveling to higher elevations also present unique challenges. That’s why it’s important to pay special attention to eye health during the colder months.

Here are the most common problems, along with tips to help you take good care of your eyes this winter.

Dry Eyes in Winter

Tears are a mixture of water, fatty oils, and mucous that provide a protective layer on our eyes’ surface. Although our eyes are constantly producing tears, the tears also naturally evaporate. When this cycle is balanced, our eyes function perfectly and feel fine. However, in winter, cold air holds less water than warm air, so dry eyes are more common. Wind can increase evaporation too. This is why almost everyone will experience eye irritation on the coldest days for these reasons. Symptoms of dry eyes can include redness, itchiness, burning, stickiness, and a foreign body sensation in the eye.

Several measures can help with dry eyes:

  • Apply a drop of artificial tears before you head out into the cold and wind to help keep your eyes comfortable;

  • Use humidifiers to improve your indoor environment;

  • When in the home, decrease drafts, avoid fans, and direct heating vents away from your face. These solutions help decrease evaporation that occurs when air moves across the eyes;

  • Avoid cigarette smoke. Smoke can increase eye irritation;

  • Always wear sunglasses or goggles when outdoors. Be sure to retain eye moisture when outside, especially when engaging in activities where air moves quickly across your eyes;

  • Decrease the amount of time you wear contact lenses. Lenses can wick tears away from your eyes;

  • For chronic or severe dry eyes, ask your ophthalmologist. An ophthalmologist is a medical or osteopathic doctor who specializes in eye and vision care. They are trained in a full spectrum of treatments for dry eyes, including the insertion of tear duct plugs. These tiny, biocompatible devices can be easily and painlessly inserted into your eyes to help relieve dry eyes.

Watery Eyes and Cold Weather

Watering eyes are common as we step outside into colder winter temperatures. When cold air causes more evaporation, our eyes are left with a thinner cushion of tears that protects the sensitive surface cells. This condition can trigger a reflex that tells the lacrimal gland (the eye gland that secretes an aqueous tear film layer) to produce extra tears. The result is that tears can flood our eyes and spill onto our cheeks.

In this case, the tearing is actually due to evaporation; treatment for watery eyes is similar to dry eyes.

About Dr. Anchal Gupta, M.S. Ophthalmologist

Dr. Anchal Gupta, ophthalmologist/eye surgeon, diagnoses and treats all eye diseases. She performs a wide range of clinical procedures and more complicated eye surgeries and has experience of over 15 years.

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