The winter months can be a stressful time between the chaos of the holidays and the cold weather. Something that can make the winter extra stressful is having dry eyes.
These are both annoying and uncomfortable. When your eyes aren’t receiving adequate moisture, it can cause them to feel gritty, irritated, and even like they’re burning.
But you can avoid these symptoms by being aware of the following things that can dry out your eyes. Keep reading for 5 things that may make your eyes feel drier this winter!
1. Cold, Dry Weather
One of the biggest factors for having dry eyes is simply the weather. In much of the country, it can get quite cold during the winter, especially in Boston!
Cold weather also means low humidity, so the air is drier than it is during warmer months. Dry air along with cold winds can sap the moisture from your eyes if you spend a lot of time outside.
The best way to keep your eyes healthy in cold weather is to limit your time outdoors. Also, if you wear contacts, consider wearing glasses when you plan to be outside for a long time.
The combined effects of contacts and cold can dry out your eyes even more. If your eyes are feeling dry and irritated, make sure you have artificial tears or eye drops on hand. This can help curb any feelings of irritation before they get out of control.
2. Indoor Heating
It’s not only the weather outside during the winter that can dry out your eyes. Having heat on inside, whether it’s in your home or in the car can also have a drying effect.
Heating systems blast air, and even though it’s warm, it’s still dry air that’s hitting your face and particularly your eyes. It can be tempting to increase your heat when it’s cold out.
You should be careful about sitting too close to vents where the air is coming out. If you frequently have the thermostat in your house turned up high, consider investing in a humidifier to balance out the dry air.
If you prefer an old fashioned fire in the fireplace to heat your home, you should still be careful as smoke can also dry out your eyes. Make sure your fireplace is well ventilated. You should also make an effort not to sit too close to the fire.
In the car, it may be harder to avoid hot air blowing right on you when you have the heat on. If your car has heated seats, consider using them instead of turning the heat on high.
This will make you feel warmer without having to use blowing air. If your car doesn’t have heated seats, avoid aiming air vents too close to your face and try not to keep the air on high.
This is also a good rule when it comes to hair dryers. Try not to point them at your face when drying your hair. If possible, also try to dry your hair on lower and colder settings, rather than high heat to reduce how much heat hits your face and eyes.
3. UV Damage
Most people only consider wearing sunglasses when it’s hot out. But the sun can still be quite bright even during cold winter weather.
When there’s snow on the ground, your eyes could suffer a great deal of damage. The snow reflects sunlight and increases the intensity of its harmful UV rays.
UV damage won’t only dry out your eyes, either. It can also cause long-term damage that increases your risk for eye conditions like cataracts.
For this reason, it’s always important to wear sunglasses when you’re outside, even in the winter. Be sure to keep your eyes protected from the sun, especially when skiing or taking part in other snow-based activities. Any sunglasses you wear should provide protection against UVA and UVB rays.
If you’re not sure, check for a label on your sunglasses. Cheaper sunglasses from a gas station or convenience store may not have this, but spending a little more is worth it when it comes to protecting your eyes!
4. Too Much Screen Time
When the weather is cold, it’s normal to spend more time inside cuddled up in front of the TV or looking at your smartphone. But spending too much time looking at a screen can also dry out your eyes.
Screens emit blue light, which can irritate your eyes when you look at them for too long without breaks. It can even lead to Computer Vision Syndrome.
Computer Vision Syndrome is a common condition for people that spend all day working in front of computers. One of the primary symptoms of CVS is dry eyes.
To avoid dry eyes and CVS in general, try to limit how long you’re looking at a screen. If it feels like you’ve spent too much time looking at devices, take a break.
This may be a great time to switch to listening to a podcast or audiobook instead. Anyone spending time looking at digital devices should follow something called the 20-20-20 rule.
Every 20 minutes, turn away from the screen and look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will give your eyes a much needed break.
Some phones, tablets, and computers also have a “night shift” or “warm light” setting you can use. This will reduce how much blue light the screen emits. Even if you use these settings, be sure to take breaks from screens as you need them. Your eyes will thank you!
Another thing that you may tend to do in the winter is forget to drink enough water. A cold glass of water isn’t very appealing when it’s cold outside.
But if you feel thirsty, or your eyes feel dry, these are some of the first signs of dehydration. This is extra important in the winter, when everything already feels more dry.
If drinking several glasses of water at once feels overwhelming, try breaking it up throughout the day. Try to take occasional sips of water throughout the day.
You can also eat more hydrating foods like soup, or even certain fruits and vegetables. Watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, cauliflower, cucumber, and lettuce are all composed of at least 90% water.
This makes them good snack choices when you’re trying to stay hydrated. Another way to stay hydrated is by eating enough omega-3 fatty acids.
This is a nutrient found in fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your eyes, especially when it comes to regulating tear production. Adding more of these beneficial foods to your diet can make a real difference when it comes to avoiding dry eyes in the winter.
For many people, it takes a combination of lifestyle changes and medication before they find relief from their dry eye symptoms. If this sounds familiar to you, schedule an appointment at Nielsen Eye Center in Boston, MA today to discuss a dry eye treatment plan with one of our eye doctors!
Our dedicated Patient Advocates are standing by and waiting by the phone to answer any questions you may have. Call us at 617-471-5665 and start the journey to putting your dry eye symptoms behind you!