‘Tis the season for watery, irritated dry eyes! Winter is a common time of year for people to complain about dry eye. Cold weather often brings windy conditions outdoors, and heaters radiate dry heat indoors, so our eyes can become irritated and dry during the winter months. Being exposed to either wind or dry heat can cause a sudden onset of moisture evaporation inside of our eyes, and our tear glands cannot produce fluid quickly enough to maintain the protective, liquid coating that our eyes need to stay hydrated. The result is itchy, dry eyes that may cause pain, blurred vision, a burning sensation or even watery vision as our eyes try to compensate for the dryness.
Here are some cold weather habits that could lead to dry eye, and also some tips on how to prevent dry eye symptoms.
- Heating your home
When the heater kicks on to maintain warm temperatures in your house, your home’s humidity level can easily dip below the 30-55 percent range that is required for our eyes to stay lubricated. One of the best ways to offset this dry air is to use a humidifier in your home. Also, remember to leave the exhaust off in your bathroom while you are showering.
- Forgetting to hydrate
Hot summer days can conjure cravings of iced tea and cold lemonade, but that thirst often dissipates in the colder months. During winter, cold temperatures can dampen the body’s thirst mechanism while artificial heat speeds the evaporation of tears. Even mild dehydration can negatively affect the watery component of the eye. Keep your body and eyes hydrated by sipping water or tea throughout the day and up your intake of fluid-rich foods such as soup, fruits and veggies.
- Overlooking your Omega 3s
Dry winter air has been shown to inflame the eyes’ tear glands, partially closing off tear flow. One way to ease this inflammation is to consume a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids. If your diet is low in these helpful nutrients, taking a fish oil supplement will help to up your intake and increase the amount of tears to protect your eyes.
- Blasting the heat from your car vent
It’s freezing out, and so is your car! It’s common to blast the heat on high when you jump in your car on chilly mornings. However, sitting in front of the forced air vent is basically the same thing as holding a hair dryer to your eyeballs. It can cause them to become very dry, very quickly. Instead, use only the heat vents at your feet or turn on your seat warmer until you warm up.
If these tips don’t help alleviate your symptoms, see us for a dry eye evaluation. You may have a very common but chronic and progressive condition called Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD. MGD occurs when there is a compromise to the function and/or structure of the meibomian glands in the eyelids that produce the protective oily layer of the tear film. These glands can become blocked over time so they can no longer produce oils needed for healthy tears. This blockage results in rapid evaporation of your tears and can lead to irritation, discomfort and if not treated, gland dropout.
A series of evaluations can be performed to determine if you have MGD. This can include a LipiView® tear film and gland imaging and a meibomian gland evaluation. Knowing what is causing your Dry Eye will help your doctor determine the best treatment option. Learn more about LipiView® and dry eye treatment at here.