It’s that time of year when we start to feel dry, itchy, and irritated. Winter air is less humid and it has an effect on our skin and eyes. If you’re suffering from symptoms of dry eyes, we have some tips to help this winter.
1. Drop the heat
Indoor heating sources and even car vents are a major reason indoor air is significantly drier in winter than in summer. Your eyes may be sensitive to this change in environment, causing them to be itchy and scratchy.
If you can, drop the temperature on your thermostat by a few degrees to avoid drying out your air more than necessary. You can also open windows to help bring in moist air from outside. Avoid direct sources of heat, including hair dryers, that can aggravate dry eyes.
2. Boost humidity
Humidifiers restore moisture levels, especially in winter. Make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and clean your humidifier regularly so that it doesn’t get moldy. If you don’t have a humidifier, you can place a bowl of water near heat sources to help add moisture to your air.
Some newer thermostats have programs that allow you to control your home’s humidity level, which is ideally kept between 30-40%.
3. Use eye drops
If you continue to experience discomfort from dry eyes, you can add eye drops to your daily routine. Artificial tears restore moisture and can be used several times throughout the day to improve symptoms.
If you wear contact lenses, make sure you choose eye drops that are suitable for use with contacts. If you’re still experiencing dry eyes, we may be able to switch you to a different lens material that’s more comfortable in the winter months.
Eye ointments are another alternative for adding moisture to dry eyes. Thicker than drops, ointments are typically placed on the lower lashes, and are most suitable for use in the evenings since they may temporarily blur your vision.
Another simple solution is to use a warm compress. Soak a washcloth in warm water and place it over your eyes for about ten minutes to reduce dry eye symptoms and redness.
4. Put on your shades
Sunglasses aren’t just for summer! Even though the sun is hotter in summer, winter UV exposure is also dangerous for your eyes. It’s essential to wear sunglasses year-round to protect from these harmful rays.
Snow and ice are also highly reflective. When you’re outside in winter weather, choose sunglasses that effectively block UV rays. If you’re unsure about the quality of your lenses, you can bring them to your appointment to have them looked at by your optometrist.
Winter sports enthusiasts also need protective eyewear. Snow, debris, and sun are all factors that can affect your eyes. Additionally, the Peripheral Light Focusing (PLF) effect means that light can seep in from the top, bottom, and sides of glasses. You may want to consider adding protective contact lenses that offer UV protection or choosing a pair of wraparound sports goggles with full coverage. These will also protect your eyes from the drying effects of the wind.
If your winter activities don’t require sunglasses, ask us about adding an anti-reflective coating to your regular eyewear to reduce glare and UV exposure.
5. Book an appointment
If you’re experiencing any symptoms with your eyes, it’s always a good idea to have them checked by your optometrist. A lot of insurance benefits expire at the end of the year, so fall and winter are an ideal time to make sure you’ve had your eyes examined.
Some underlying health conditions can contribute to dry eye symptoms and may require specific treatments. Cold weather can also trigger symptoms of evaporative dry eye syndrome caused by meibomian gland dysfunction. If this is the case, ask us about how we can help with revolutionary LipiFlow treatment, offered right here in our clinic.
Just like we have to change the clothes we wear, the arrival of winter means changing the way we care for our eyes. Dropping temperatures mean drier indoor air, but you can keep irritating dry eye symptoms at bay by making a few simple changes at home. If you continue to experience discomfort, book an appointment to see how we can help restore your eye’s natural moisture barrier with drops or LipiFlow treatment.