‘Tis the season to deal with weather-related eye problems.

The cold weather winter brings exposes your eyes to harsher temperatures and conditions. The environmental changes can lead to common eye issues such as dry eye or eye irritation. During the winter, staying warm and dry is most likely one of our top health-related priorities. However, we should also be taking steps and precautions to keep our eyes healthy in addition to our bodies.

When it’s cold outside, it’s warm and dry inside. 

During the cold weather, we naturally turn on the heat to keep our house warm and cozy. This, however, causes the air to be a bit dryer than it is during the warmer months which leads to dry eye. Dry eye symptoms such as burning and itching, or the sensation of foreign objects in the eye, are often brought on by the reduced humidity levels in our homes and workplaces due to heating. Exposure to cold windy conditions outside can further exacerbate these symptoms.

You can help your eyes stay moist and hydrated by increasing the humidity in your home through a cold or hot air humidifier. This will lessen the dryness of the air, which means your eyes will not dry out as quickly or significantly as it would otherwise. When you are outside, you should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the bright UV rays that may reflect off of snowy or icy surfaces as well as the cold wind that will dry your eyes out. 

If suffering from dry eye causes significant comfort and inconvenience during the winter months, you may consider talking to your eye doctor about taking EyeScience Dry Eye Formula vitamins to help ease your symptoms and hydrate your body from the inside out.

Winter and Watery Eyes

On the flipside, winter can cause our eyes to water more than usual. Watering eyes are common as we step outside into colder winter temperatures. When cold air causes more evaporation, our eyes are left with a thinner cushion of tears that protect the sensitive surface cells. This condition can trigger a reflex that tells the lacrimal gland (the eye gland that secretes an aqueous tear film layer) to produce extra tears. The result is that tears can flood our eyes and spill onto our cheeks.

In this case, the tearing is actually due to evaporation; treatment for watery eyes is similar to dry eyes.

Snowy Weather = Snow Blindness

Photokeratitis is the medical term for snow blindness caused by damage to the 

surface cells of the cornea from ultraviolet (UV)light. Although we are exposed to UV light all year, reflections from snow intensify this exposure. That’s why photokeratitis is usually seen in winter. The cornea cells have denser nerve endings than anywhere else on your body, making snow blindness extremely painful. The damage, while often temporary, can cause blurry vision. UV light can damage the retina in the back of the eye as well.

The best way to prevent snow blindness is to avoid prolonged UV exposure. All sunglasses and snow goggles sold in the United States are required to have sufficient filters that block both UVA and UVB rays. Wearing adequate protection for snow sports is extremely important. Treating snow blindness involves rest with eyes closed for 12 to 48 hours. Your ophthalmologist can provide symptomatic and pain relief if needed.

While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, it is also extremely important to take care of our vision and realize that some effects of the winter may be detrimental to our eyes.