Winterize Your Eyes
Aw, winter. Short days that feel long, fluctuating temperatures, cold winds and more time spent indoors are all a part of the season, but did you know that winter can take a toll on your eye health? Read on to learn about the eye conditions that may develop throughout hibernation season and what you can do to protect and winterize your eyes throughout these long cold months.
Winter Eye Health Issues
Certain eye health issues may arise in winter and can be attributed to:
- Loss of Moisture/Dry Air
Spending more time inside or in the car with the heat blasting in your face can cause the air and your eyes to dry out. Loss of humidity in the winter and cold dry air coupled with heating inside causes dry skin and can also affect your eyes, causing or aggravating a condition known as dry eye. Common symptoms of dry eye include grittiness, the sensation that a foreign object is in your eyes, redness and irritation. Caused by lack of moisture or reduced tearing this condition is affected by aging, allergies, screen time and winter weather conditions. Another winter habit that can contribute to dry eye is more time spent indoors. The air indoors coupled with time spent on screens and computers is the perfect dry eye recipe. So what can you do?
Tips To Avoid Winter Dry Eye
- Drink Up- Staying hydrated can help. Down some H20 and avoid alcohol and caffeine which are dehydrating.
- Eat Your Omega’s- Taking Omega 3 supplements or eating foods high in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon can fend off dry eye.
- Use Lubricating Drops- OTC eye drops for dry eye may help provide needed moisture during the winter months, or else you can ask your eye doctor for recommendations.
- Break Up With Screens- Spending time on the computer surfing for that pair of skis you want and working all day can contribute to dry eye. It’s not necessarily just the exposure to blue light, it’s the fact that you might forget to blink. Staring at a screen lessens the tendency to blink which is a natural response that helps to lubricate your eyes. If you spend a lot of time on screens, remember the 20/20/20 rule as outlined by the Canadian Association of Optometrists,- look away from your screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and focus on something that is 20 feet away.
- Avoid Hair Dryers- Embrace your natural beauty this season to lessen your exposure to warm dry air, or at least try to avoid blowing the dry heat into your face.
- Make Friends with Humidifiers- Using a humidifier indoors during the winter months can add moisture to the air making you and your eyes feel better.
- Increase In UV Exposure
Building snowmen, sledding, skiing or skating this Winter? Good for you! It’s great to get a break outdoors to enjoy nature. But just as you protect your body from the elements by bundling up in winter gear you should do the same for your eyes. Sun protection isn’t just for the summer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, snow can multiply your UV exposure because it reflects the sun’s rays, leading to twice the exposure. Even when you are shoveling snow the glare that bounces off of it, reflects UV light back into your eyes. Notes Dr. Lorne Bellan, president of the Canadian Ophthalmological Society in an article in Best Health Magazine, “Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s reflection on ice or snow can damage the eye’s surface, causing an inflammation of the cornea called keratitis.”
Too much exposure to UV light can cause:
- Age related macular degeneration
- Cataracts- The result of cumulative damage
How To Handle UV Exposure In The Winter
- Protect and Prevent-When going outdoors remember to wear UVA/UVB protective eyewear just as you would in the summer. This might be goggles when skiing or sunglasses when going for a walk or shoveling snow. Even on cloudy days you can be exposed to UV light.
- Treat- If you develop keratitis you may require prescription drops. If your eyes continue to be red and irritated after UV exposure consult your eye doctor.
- Exposure To Cold Weather
Does cold weather hurt your eyes? It may. Though eyes tear naturally to protect from cold and blinking increases as a natural defense mechanism, too much exposure to extreme cold may negatively impact eyesight, causing blurred vision.
How Cold Weather Affects Eyesight
Extremely low temperatures cause the blood vessels in and around the eyes to constrict, and this can cause immediate vision changes, such as blurriness and double vision. These changes are most likely to occur when you stay outside for long periods of time in temperatures that are well below freezing.
What To Do If Your Eyes Are Exposed to Cold
If you notice vision changes while out in the cold, move to a warm area as soon as possible. If your normal vision doesn’t return after 30 minutes or so, seek medical attention. An optometrist may use medicated eye drops to help the blood vessels in your eye dilate back to their normal size.
As always if you experience dry eye, or any of the other eye conditions mentioned in this post or have any eye health concerns make an appointment for an eye exam. With routine check-ups and by following these tips to winterize your eyes, you can enjoy all that winter has to offer and clearly see the beauty of the season for many years to come.