Walking into the festive mall entrance, the cool wind whips at you, causing your eyes to blink; as you walk through the line of shops, hot, recirculated air continues to blow air and dust into your already irritated eyes. In winter, the cold air and environmental factors can wreak havoc on your eyes.
You have probably felt the discomfort of dry eyes in winter. A lack of moisture or the wrong type of tear can lead to serious eye health problems. Red, watery, itchy, painful eyes do not help you while you’re looking at the winter wonderland or searching for that perfect holiday treat.
Dry eyes occur because the air in winter has less humidity in it, which causes our eyes to be uncomfortable and irritated. The heat in the air makes it even more harmful, since the lens of the eye needs to be moistened adequately to properly function.
You say, “But wait, I have tears coming out of my eyes. Why aren’t they helping?”
There are actually multiple types of tears that your eyes make, each with a different purpose.
During the winter, your eyes are exposed to winter heating, which alters the humidity indoors. The lower humidity causes your eyes to react by tearing up with reflex tears, which do not provide the proper balance of substances to the eye lens. Most health professionals recommend humidity levels remain at between 40% and 60% in homes and buildings. In addition to helping the eye maintain proper lubrication, those levels of humidity weaken airborne irritants by 40-70 percent.
What can I do to help my eyes?
- Stay hydrated.
- Use a humidifier in your home.
- Wear protective sunglasses and goggles when going outside.
- Consume foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids.
- Blink to hydrate your eyes, especially when in front of tv screens or computer monitors.
- Use warm compresses on your eyelids if necessary.
- Do not stay too long in a poorly humidified room.
- Do not remain in the wind or cold longer than necessary.
- Do not scratch or rub your eyes when they are irritated.
- Do not point a hair dryer at your face when drying your hair.
- Do not sit too close to the burning fireplace.
- Do not overuse artificial tear products.
- Do not set the car’s climate control too high.
Your eyes definitely have challenges to face in the winter. As always, see a doctor if your eyes continue to give you issues.