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How to Cope with Dry Eyes When the Cold Winds Blow

Tips & Treatment for Dry Eyes in the Winter

woman wearing hat and scarf in snowy trees

To put it simply – Dry Eye Syndrome refers to a chronic case of dry eyes and all of the irritating symptoms that it causes. This annoying condition develops when your eyes aren’t lubricated well enough, and winter is one of the worst culprits behind dry eyes. However, it’s not always the low temperatures and blustery winds that deserve blame. Rather, indoor heating is a typical problem, as it removes moisture from your atmosphere.

If the winter weather gives you red eyes, blurry vision and a need to rub your eyes or blink constantly, you’re probably suffering from dry eyes. Dry eyes won’t lead to any long term complications, yet they can be very annoying and interfere with many daily tasks. Contact us to schedule an eye exam; we’ll evaluate your dry eyes and offer a range of strategies and remedies to alleviate your discomfort. To protect your eyes from crisp, windy weather and the hazards of dry indoor heating, here are some helpful tips:

  • Purchase artificial tears (specialized eye drops) to restore moisture to your eyes. Be sure to consult with our expert optometrists to check which drops are appropriate for your ocular condition.
  • Avoid sitting too close to radiators and heaters at home or at work.
  • Hold back from rubbing your eyes, as this will exacerbate your dry eyes and could result in scratching the surface of your eyes.
  • Opt to wear your eyeglasses more frequently than contact lenses.
  • Reverse the drying effects of your heater by using a humidifier too.
  • Apply warm compresses to your dry eyes; this can help alleviate itchy symptoms
  • Take supplements. Recent Harvard studies have shown an association between taking omega-3 supplements and preventing Dry Eye Syndrome.

When you’re outdoors, you can protect your eyes against the cold by wearing sunglasses or goggles. Wraparound sunglasses are the ideal eyewear design, as they maximize the area of your face blocked from the wind. This is particularly important when engaging in wintery outdoor sports, such as skiing, snowboarding or sledding. All winter eyewear should have UV-protection, as the sun’s ultraviolet rays are just as strong even when it’s not warm outside!

Dry eyes are a chronic condition that can often be prevented or alleviated by following the above advice. Yet some cases may require additional dry eye treatment. We’re experienced in many types of dry eye treatment, including prescription medications and minor surgical procedures. Contact our office to reserve your appointment!

The Crazy Truth About Caffeine and How It Can Help Your Dry Eyes

Your morning cup of coffee or energizing can of Red Bull may be surprising sources of relief from the annoying symptoms of dry eye. A study conducted at the University of Tokyo’s School of Medicine showed that caffeine can increase the eye’s ability to manufacture tears. These results are significant and welcome news for dry eye sufferers.

Coffee Heart Cookies GlassesWhile dry eye isn’t typically dangerous or sight-threatening, it is a common condition that affects approximately four million people above the age of 50 in the United States – and the symptoms can be very disruptive to normal life. An inability to maintain a healthy, moist layer of tears on the eye’s surface interferes with clear and comfortable vision. When you have itchy, gritty, burning and red eyes, routine activities such as reading, driving and watching TV can become uncomfortable and even painful.

After consuming caffeine, all 78 participants in the Japanese study produced substantially more tears than the people in the placebo group. On average, tear volume of the caffeine-takers in the study was 30% higher after both one and two hours. To be eligible to join the study, subjects could not have hypertension, allergies that affect the eye, glaucoma or any other ocular disease that can impact tear production. More research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of caffeine as dry eye treatment, yet these findings are encouraging.

At present, recommended treatments for dry eye range from applying warm compresses to your eyes to using artificial tears or tear drainage devices. One day, when doctors understand more about the connection between caffeine and tear production, caffeine tablets, regular cups of coffee, tea and Red Bull may also be on the list of therapies for dry eye syndrome.

6 Habits that Cause Dry Eyes

Our Eye Doctors Will Help Find the Cause of Your Irritated Dry Eyes

Are you always rubbing your eyes or blinking constantly to spread more moisture across the surface? Dry eyes can be extremely irritating, even painful for some people. Inadequate lubrication may cause sore eyes, redness, an inability to wear contact lenses and overall uncomfortable vision. At our eye care clinic, our experienced, expert eye doctors will perform a thorough eye exam to diagnose Dry Eye Syndrome.

As every patient is unique, our eye exam will include questions about your personal lifestyle in order to identify what’s causing your dry eyes. Finding the cause is the best way to find an effective solution!

Depending upon the results of your eye exam, we’ll recommend a number of lifestyle changes to help alleviate the annoying symptoms caused by your dry eyes. Here are 6 possible culprits for Dry Eye Syndrome:

Extreme Weather Conditions

Whether it’s summer or winter, extreme weather can stress your eyes so that they can’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated well. In the winter, it’s helpful to wear goggles or glasses to protect your eyes from frigid temperatures and wind. This is particularly beneficial when you hit the ski slopes or lace up your ice skates. In the summer, heat can lead to dehydration, which saps the moisture from your eyes too. The best way to avoid this problem and stay comfortable is simply to drink enough!

A/C or Indoor Heating

Air-conditioning, fans and indoor heating are directly linked with drying out your eyes. Blowing air evaporates moisture from your eyes more quickly, and it also dries out the atmosphere inside your home or office. A humidifier is a worthwhile investment to solve this problem. In the winter, a humidifier will give you an extra bonus of keeping your sinuses moist too, which helps to relieve the symptoms of your winter cold.

Seasonal Allergies

Recent studies have shown a strong link between spring allergens and dry eyes. When pollen counts are highest. an increased number of patients visit our eye doctors with complaints of dry eye symptoms. During allergy season, using an air filter indoors may be the most efficient way to avoid the effects of pollen on your eyes.

Skin Conditions

Specific skin conditions and disorders are associated with dry eyes. Blepharitis, which refers to an inflammation of the skin along the edge of your eyelids, often leads to Dry Eye Syndrome, because the oil-producing glands are often clogged. This ruins your eyes’ ability to produce tears with a healthy composition of oil. Rosacea, an inflammatory skin condition that generally appears on the face, may also block the oil-producing glands of your eyes.

Environmental Effects of the Great Outdoors

While fresh, outdoor air is generally healthy for your eyes, skin and lungs, too much exposure to smoke, wind, dust, and extreme temperatures can certainly lead to eye dehydration. Global climate change has been blamed for many of these ill effects, as your tear film depends upon natural humidity to stay moist. Yet as our environments have changed (and continue to change), the amount of hydration that your eyes can obtain from the outdoor environment has been reduced. Air pollution is also detrimental to healthy eyes, damaging and drying out your tear film.

Low-Tear Production

Our eye doctors diagnose many cases of dry eyes that are due to a reduced tear production. Officially termed keratoconjunctivitis sicca, a decreased manufacture of tears can result from a variety of causes. To stimulate tear production, it may be helpful to up your intake of omega-3 fish oil.

Aging is a common reason for inadequate tear production, as well as certain medical disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, thyroid conditions, scleroderma, vitamin A deficiency and Sjorgen’s syndrome. If you’ve undergone radiation treatments, your tear glands may have suffered damage. Laser eye surgery is another potential culprit, however symptoms of dry eyes due to these procedures are generally short-lived.

When your eyes are unable to keep up with healthy tear production, it’s a good idea to take a look at any medications you’re taking. Common household drugs, such as decongestants and antihistamines are known to affect the moisture level of your eyes. Other medications that could cause dry eyes include: antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, acne drugs, medication for Parkinson’s disease, hypertension treatment and birth control.

8 Tips to Beat Winter Dry Eyes

One of the most common patient complaints during the winter months is dry eyes. In the cooler climates, cold winds and dry air, coupled with dry indoor heating can be a recipe for an eye disaster. Dryness and irritation can be particularly debilitating for those who wear contact lenses or suffer from chronic dry eyes – a condition in which the eyes do not properly produce tear film.

The harsh weather conditions can reduce the natural moisture in your eyes and the irritation usually results in a burning or itching sensation that often leads to rubbing or scratching your eyes which can worsen the symptoms. Sometimes it feels like there is a foreign object in your eye and for some, dry eyes can even cause excessive tearing. Prolonged, untreated dry eyes can lead to blurred vision as well.

Whatever the symptoms, dry eyes can cause significant discomfort during the long winters and relief can seriously improve your quality of life.

Here are eight tips to keep your eyes comfortable during the harsh winter months:

  1. To keep eyes moist, apply artificial tears/eye drops a few times a day. If you have chronic dry eyes, speak to your eye doctor about the best product for your condition.
  2. Drink a lot of fluids – keeping your body hydrated will also help maintain the moisture in your eyes.
  3. If you spend a lot of time indoors in heated environments, use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air.
  4. Try to situate yourself away from sources of heat, especially if they are blowing. While a nice cozy fire can add to the perfect winter evening, make sure your keep your distance so dry eyes don’t ruin it.
  5. Staring at a computer or digital device for extended amounts of time can further dry out your eyes. If you spend a lot of time staring at the screen, make sure you blink often and practice the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  6. Don’t rub your eyes! This will only increase irritation and can also lead to infections if your hands are not clean.
  7. Give your eyes a break and break out your glasses. If your contact lenses are causing further irritation, take a break and wear your glasses for a few days.
  8. Protect your eyes. If you know you are going to be venturing into harsh weather conditions, such as extreme cold or wind, make sure you wear protection. Try large, 100% UV protective eyeglasses and a hat with a visor to keep the wind and particles from getting near your eyes. If you are a winter sports enthusiast, make sure you wear well-fitted ski goggles.

If you find that after following these tips you continue to suffer, contact your eye doctor. It could be that your condition requires medical intervention.