Mother Nature has unleashed her annual torrent of Arctic air and snow squalls which can dry out your eyes and nasal passages. We have some tips and tricks to help prevent dry eyes throughout this winter to help you and your eyes feel more comfortable, despite the rough climate.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Dry Eye Syndrome is a common condition that affects not only your vision but also your overall quality of life. A healthy tear film normally keeps your eyes moist and lubricated. That film has three layers: aqueous (water), mucus, and lipid (oil). Dry Eye Syndrome occurs when these three get out of balance.
Dry eyes can be a recurring problem but you may also develop them temporarily or during certain seasons. According to the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Health, dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce tears properly or when those tears evaporate too quickly. Dry eye can make it difficult to do some activities such as using a computer or reading for extended periods. Dry eye can also make you very uncomfortable in arid environments such as airplanes or office settings.
Tears have three components: 1) an outer, oily, lipid layer 2) a middle, watery, lacrimal layer and 3) an inner, mucous layer. Anyone at any age can develop dry eyes, but senior citizens are more susceptible. According to the Mayo Clinic, many factors can lead to dry eye including advancing age, hormonal changes, eye damage, medications, refractive surgeries and environmental conditions. Winter can be an especially difficult time to prevent dry eyes because the cold air contains less humidity (moisture) and the use of furnaces and space heaters to warm it up—making it even drier. This along with windy conditions outside, sun glare from snow and your car’s defrost or heater vents blowing air on your face can exacerbate dry eye symptoms all winter long.
What Are The Symptoms?
Dry eyes feel uncomfortable and may sting or burn or feel scratchy. Other symptoms include:
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Increased eye irritation from smoke or wind
- Eye fatigue
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Periods of excessive tearing
- Blurred vision, often worsening at the end of the day or after focusing for a prolonged period
How To Prevent Dry Eyes
During winter, your dry eye symptoms may just be caused by some of the environmental factors listed above. So to prevent dry eyes, you may have to adjust some of your usual habits or eliminate certain irritants. Here are some helpful hints:
- Use over the counter artificial tears for temporary relief. If you use them several times a day, avoid artificial tears with preservatives.
- Wear sunglasses or wraparound shades that stop wind from blowing into your eyes.
- Use an indoor air cleaner to filter out dust particles.
- A room humidifier may help by adding moisture to the air.
- Avoid air blowing in your eyes. Don’t direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes. In your car, direct heat to floor vents and away from your eyes once your windshield is defrosted.
- If you’re reading or doing another task that requires visual concentration, take periodic eye breaks and remember to blink frequently.
- Stop smoking and avoid smoky environments.
Woodhams Eye Clinic recently opened a Dry Eye Clinic where you can undergo a simple, highly effective evaluation. Dry eyes are a common but treatable condition, so there’s no need to suffer.
For questions or comments, contact Woodhams Eye Clinic.
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