'Tis the Season...For Dry Eyes!
While the holiday season brings a rush of excitement, the cold air that accompanies the change of seasons can bring eye problems along with it. While we all know that cold, dry weather can impact our skin, it can be harsh on your eyes too!
Dry air means dry eyes!
As the weather cools down, most of us are turning on the heat. Unfortunately, this can exacerbate dry eyes. Dry eye symptoms, such as burning, itching, and even tearing are often brought on by the decrease in humidity levels in our homes, cars, and workplaces due to heating. Cold and windy conditions outdoors can make these even worse. If left untreated, dry eyes can cause discomfort, blurry vision, and even damage to the cornea.
How can you help prevent or minimize this dryness?
Keep your eyes moist! If possible, use a humidifier to increase the humidity levels in your home or office while your eyes are open.
Use eye drops. Preservative-free artificial tears lubricate your eyes and increase comfort. Use these 6-8 times a day for best results!
Blink more often. When you are focused on complex visual tasks, such as working on a computer, your eyes tend to blink less frequently. This can make dryness worse, so it is important to try and remember to blink regularly whenever you feel your eyes are dry at work.
Wear glasses. Make sure to wear sunglasses during any time you spend outdoors. They will help protect your eyes from the drying effects of the cold wind.
Reflected UV rays are a danger in winter too!
If you spend any time outside during the winter, don’t forget your shades! Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun aren’t just harmful while you’re at the pool or the beach. Snow and ice can reflect the sun and significantly increase the amount of UV exposure your eyes experience during the winter. UV light can damage the surface of the cornea in the eye and may cause inflammation known as keratitis. Symptoms include redness, pain, and sensitivity to light. In extreme cases, “snow blindness” can cause vision loss. UV light exposure can also contribute to the formation of cataracts!
How can you protect your eyes?
The most important thing you can do is shield them from this UV exposure! Freshly fallen snow has an almost 100% reflection rate, meaning your eyes are exposed to nearly a full dose of UV light from both above and below. Wearing polarized sunglasses will block harmful UVA and UVB rays from damaging your eyes. If you’re skiing or snowmobiling, make sure your goggles have polycarbonate lenses with UV protection.
Keep the outdoor time short. If you forgot to wear your sunglasses or goggles, limit the time you spend outdoors to no more than a few hours on sunny or bright overcast days.