Skin isn’t the only organ that can feel the effects of cold weather. Here’s how to pamper your peepers.
Just as cold weather can dry out skin and make it itchy and uncomfortable, it can do the same to another part of body: the eyes.
During the winter months, the air — outside and indoors — is typically dry. The lack of moisture makes the surface of the eyes drier and causes irritation, itching and discomfort. People who wear contact lenses or those with chronic allergies are especially likely to notice that their eyes feel dry and uncomfortable in the winter.
Eight tips for preventing or soothing dry, itchy eyes in winter:
1. Blink. Blinking and closing the eyes redistributes and establishes a tear film over the front of your eyes, which improves vision, comfort and lubrication.
2. Using artificial tears or eye drops can help keep the eye moistened. There are several remedies, including over-the-counter gels, drops or lubricants, to help resolve minor irritations. Avoid using eye drops that promise to remove redness, however. These work by temporarily constricting the blood vessels, and chronic use of these types of eye drops can cause irritation. (If you need to administer soothing eye drops to a child who resists, here’s a technique for using eye drops with children.)
3. Don’t rub your eyes. This can lead to inflammation, affect the quality of tears and cause painful corneal abrasions.
4. Consider prescription treatments that are available for those experiencing more severe cases of dry eyes.
5. Use warm compresses to try soothing the eyes.
6. Use humidifiers at home (be sure to empty the water collection tank and keep a clean filter in the machine).
7. Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect eyes against wind and damaging UV rays. If you tend to forget shades in mid-winter, try stashing a pair in the car, a coat pocket or your purse so you’ll have them when you end up outdoors on a bright day.
8. When participating in outdoor activities, wear an athletic visor or mask, or goggles appropriate for your sport, to help protect the eyes from harsh weather elements.
If you’re dealing with dry eyes all the time, not just on a few winter days, talk to your eye doctor, because there are treatments that can help with chronically dry eyes.
About Vanderbilt Eye Institute
Are your eyes in need of care? The Vanderbilt Eye Institute assesses and treats a variety of conditions. Call 615-936-2020 for an appointment.