Tired eyes, dry eyes, red eyes—oh my!
Just like everything else, our eyes are putting in extra hours this holiday season.
With winter knocking on our door, many of us may notice the effects of the colder season on our eyes. There are several factors that come into play. The combination of cold dry air combined with increased indoor heating can make eyes feel as dry as grandma’s fruit cake.
Add in our love for screens and medications to relieve cold and flu, it’s no wonder our eyes feel the strain.
But fear not, understanding this winter eye struggle can help tackle our discomfort with ease. With one of the busiest times of year upon us, don’t let dry eye rob you of your holiday cheer!
Dry Eyes: Not Just a Winter Whim
Dry eyes are more common than we think. According to the National Eye Institute, nearly 16 million Americans grapple with dry eye, revealing its prevalent nature.
“Evidence of dry eye is pervasive in our practice. Patient after patient experiences some level of dry eye symptoms during the year. Many of our patients are surprised of the effects dryness has on their vision.” – Dr. Sapir Karli, Board Certified Ophthalmologist
What are Dry Eyes?
With every blink, a film of tears covers the eye. Tears play a crucial role in both our vision and comfort level. Dryness can occur when our eyes fail to produce an adequate number of tears or fail to craft the right type of tear.
The tear film consists of three layers each having its own unique role.
- Outermost Oily Layer: Crafted in the meibomian glands, this layer acts as a guardian, preventing rapid tear evaporation that could dampen our festive cheer.
- Middle Watery Layer: From the lacrimal glands, this layer diligently washes away any unwelcome guests lurking around the eye.
- Innermost Mucus Layer: Courtesy of the conjunctiva, this layer helps the watery layer adhere seamlessly to the eye, ensuring it stays moist and well-lubricated.
Various factors, including our surroundings, medications, or underlying health conditions, can create challenges in the production of our tears.
Dry eyes can look different from person to person. Here are some of the most common complaints we hear:
- “my eyes sting and burn”
- “my eyes are red”
- “it feels like there’s something in my eye”
- “my vision is blurry, especially when I read”
- “my eyes keep running”
- “sometimes it hurts to wear my contacts”
- “my eyes are more sensitive to light”
The Winter Eye Woes: Identifying the Culprits
Indoor Heating and Low Humidity
During winter, the cozy warmth of our home can come at a cost. Indoor heating systems can lead to lower humidity levels indoors. This environment can contribute to evaporative tear loss, resulting in dry and irritated eyes
Increased Screen Time
‘Tis the season of online shopping and extended device use. Brace yourselves for eye strain and tiredness – the not-so-cool side effects of extended device use.
Wind and Outdoor Elements
Whether you’re a winter warrior or if you just want to go on an evening stroll along the Atlantic, harsh winds can strip away natural moisture, leaving eyes susceptible to dryness.
Certain medications, like antihistamines, list dry eyes as a known side effect, offering relief from allergy or cold symptoms but potentially drying your eyes.
Show Your Eyes Some Extra TLC
Add a Humidifier to Your Cart!
Combat dry indoor air by adding moisture with a humidifier. Winter air lacks the moisture of a humid summer day, and indoor heating systems blow warm, dry air, surrounding you with dryness wherever you go.
Bundle Up and Grab Some Artificial Tears
Keep a bottle handy for instant comfort. If you wake up with dry and scratchy eyes, use ointment or thick lubricating eye drops before bed. Most eye drops contain preservatives that help prevent germs from growing inside the bottle. However, it’s important to note that these preservatives can worsen your symptoms if you are using them over six times a day. If that’s the case for you, consider switching to preservative-free eye drops for relief.
Embrace the 20-20-20 Rule
For screen enthusiasts, following the 20-20-20 rule can help alleviate eye strain. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus on something 20 feet away.
Why 20 seconds? Because it takes 20 seconds or so for your eyes to completely relax.
Eye protection is always a great idea. Especially in windy, or if you’re traveling- snowy conditions, wearing protective eyewear such as goggles or wraparound sunglasses can shield your eyes from harsh elements.
Drink plenty of water — aim for 8 to 10 glasses every day. Whole-body hydration increases the aqueous layer, building a better tear film.
Looking for Dry Eye Care?
As we navigate this winter, remember your eyes deserve a little extra care. By adopting these Saint Lucie Eye approved tips, you can keep your eyes healthy and ready for whatever winter weather brings your way.
However, if the winter eye blues persist, it’s time to call in the pros. Severe dry eye is no small matter and leaving it untreated may lead to corneal damage. Consult with an eye care expert to tailor a plan that keeps your eyes shining bright throughout the season. We’re here to help you embrace the cold with confidence. If you want to know more, check out the information on our CONTACT PAGE.