During the cold months of winter we wrap our bodies up to keep them warm and protect them from the cold - so why do we not show the same amount of care for our eyes? In the cold weather our eyes need some looking after. Luckily, there are various ways we can stop our eyes from drying out in winter. Below we share some tips and tricks to keep your eyes feeling fresh and hydrated during the colder months.
Dry winter eyes come in the form of various symptoms. Common signs of dry eyes due to the cold winter weather include:
- Blurred vision
- Dry, irritated or itchy eyes (it can feel like there is sand in your eyes)
- A burning, stinging or prickly feeling
- Excessive tearing/water secretion
- Mucus in and around the eyes
There are many reasons why our eyes dry out or get worse during winter, but the main cause is the air. Both outside and inside air is dehydrating for our eyes.
Winter air has much lower humidity levels than the warmer air in summer and therefore carries less moisture (one of the reasons we can see our breath during winter!) Lack of water vapour in the winter air means that it is more dry and more cold - something that contributes to the above symptoms and dehydrates both our eyes and skin. Icy winter winds dry the moisture in our eyes and can make them irritable, sore and blurry.
You may think that being tucked up in the warm inside is better than being out in the chilly winter air, but it can be just as (if not more) problematic for our eyes. In the winter we tend to crank up the central heating and keep cosy by the fire, but when the outside winter air comes into our home (even just from opening the front door), that air is very dry. Turning on the heating produces warmth but does not add any moisture or humidity to the air, meaning dry warm air is being circulated around your home.
Luckily, there are lots of things we can do to help protect our eyes during winter and reduce dryness.
Wear protective eyewear and glasses
As mentioned above, icy winter winds are very dehydrating for our eyes. One way to tackle this problem is to wear protective eyewear and glasses during the colder months, creating a barrier between your eyes and the freezing winds. There are plenty of options available including wrap-around sunglasses (perfect for keeping winds out of the corners of your eyes) and designer eyewear to ensure that you still look trendy this winter.
Many people think that we only need to protect our eyes from harmful UV rays in the summer when the sun is out and shining, but this is not true. Clouds do not block UV rays so investing in a good pair of sunglasses is wise during winter.
If you suffer from particularly bad dry eyes during winter then lubricating eye drops can be a quick and easy way to provide relief and add moisture to your eyes. There are lots of different eye drops available but the best ones for dry winter eyes are lubricants, also known as artificial tears. They are inexpensive and come in small bottles so that you can carry them around with you easily. If you are unsure about eyedrops, it may be a good idea to visit a nearby optometrist to discuss them and work out the best option for your dry eye problem.
Our diets have a huge impact on our skin, hair and general health. They also affect our eye health - and many people do not realise that changing up their diet and adding in certain foods can improve the health of their eyes. Foods that are rich in omega-3 oils and acids boost and improve the function of the meibomian glands in our eyes. The meibomian gland produces the oily part of our tears and so improving the function of this gland stops our eyes and tears from drying out. Simply taking fish oil supplements every morning can help with dry eyes.
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
When it is particularly cold it is a good idea to stay away from direct heat as this can severely dry out your eyes. Even in summer, sitting by a big hot fire can suck the moisture from our eyes - so, as you can imagine, it is much worse in winter when the air is dry and cold. Try to avoid sitting close to a direct fire (as cosy as it may be!) as the heat evaporates the tear film in your eyes, drying them out and irritating them.
Wearing eye contacts in winter can be more uncomfortable than helpful. Contact lenses can cause irritation at the best of times - let alone in winter when the air is dry and cold. Contact lenses can cause redness and dryness. Avoid this completely by opting for glasses which will give your eyes a gentle break over winter.
If you’ve spent your day out in the cold then getting home and cosying up in front of a screen (which is very tempting today in the world of Netflix and iPlayer) can further dry your eyes out. Try to reduce your screen time and if you are spending a lot of time staring at a screen (sometimes it can’t be helped, particularly if your job involves a computer) then remember to blink often and look away for a break every 20 minutes. Blinking improves the meibomian gland function and renews tear film, and therefore helps to ease dry eyes.
If you are planning a winter getaway or want to participate in some winter sports, don’t forget to protect your eyes - just as you don’t forget to protect your skin from the cold. Even though it may be overcast, the sun’s UV rays are actually intensified and reflected by bright white snow. This means it is very important to shield our eyes from these dangerous UV rays. If you are skiing, snowboarding or just generally in and around snow, then invest in a pair of goggles to protect your eyes.
If you have tried the above options and are still experiencing unpleasant and uncomfortable dry winter eyes then it may be time for a visit to your opticians or GP for a vision test to make sure that everything is ok.
Sometimes, dry eyes can be caused by other health conditions that do need to be checked out. Although the cold weather during winter does dry our eyes out, if you suffer from dry eyes it is a good idea to visit a nearby optometrist in case it is a more serious issue than just the weather. Dry eyes can also be caused by hormonal changes, certain medications, laser eye surgery or ageing, as well as medical conditions such as meibomian gland dysfunction, lupus and contact dermatitis.
Here at David Paul Opticians we offer advanced eye examinations using the latest diagnostic technology to ensure that eye conditions are detected and therefore treated early on. If you are concerned about the health of your eyes and want to book an eye examination, simply contact us today.