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Winter can be troublesome for eye protection and one of the most common complaints in the Winter months is dry eyes. When you have dry eyes you can often experience a burning or itching sensation or even feeling like you have a foreign object in your eye. Dry eyes during winter are often caused by the lower humidity levels inside your office or home, often because the windows are shut and central heating is put on, spending time outside can also have a drying effect on your eyes. Dryness can sometimes cause blurred vision or even damage to the cornea, which can also lead to blurriness.
Those that wear contact lenses are more likely to experience problems with dry eyes, with almost 50% of wearers complaining of dry eyes, as sometimes the contact lenses can soak up tears in the eye and therefore leave the eye feeling dry. Contact lenses soak up the eyes tears as they have to remain wet at all times, especially when being worn, in order to maintain it’s shape and desired optics. Contact lenses can be the cause of the dryness, or they can also make an existing case of dry eyes worse.
However anyone can be affected by dry eyes, post-menopausal women are also at a higher risk because of their loss of estrogen.
Patients also often complain of watery eyes during the winter months, however this can be the result of dry eyes as their eyes are not tearing as they should (which ordinarily would clean the eyes) so they become dry and often irritated.
To protect yourself from dry eyes this winter, you should ensure that you keep your eyes moist by drinking extra fluids, using an air humidifier while your eyes are open. You can also use lubricating eye drops to help supplement the natural tear production and provide some added comfort if you are struggling to relieve yourself from dry eyes naturally.
If you spend most of your day focusing on a computer screen you may find that you don’t blink as much which can exacerbate dry eyes, if you do feel as though your eyes are dry at work then make a conscious effort to blink more often as this can encourage the production of tears to lubricate your eyes.
Wind can also dry your eyes out so wearing glasses or sunglasses, if necessary, can protect your eyes from the adverse effects of winter wind.
People often forget that their eyes can still suffer from exposure to ultraviolet light in the winter, especially when skiing or snowboarding as the suns light is likely to reflect off ice or snow on the floor and can become quite intense. These reflections can cause damage to the eye’s surface and cause an inflammation of the cornea, called Keratitis. Keratitis can cause the eyes to become red, sore and sensitive to light and often requires antibiotic eye drops to prevent further infection.
Over exposure to UV light can also play a role in the development of cataracts, which is a clouding of the lends in the eye that affects a persons vision. If you are going skiing or snowboarding be sure to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses or googles that have polycarbonate lenses to block UV radiation. Idealy sunglasses should have a minimum of UV 400 protection in order to be effective and block both UVA and UVB rays. New snow on a ski slope has nearly a 100% reflection of UV light so can therefore be quite dangerous for your eyes, especially as you are likely to be receiving light from above and below.
The cold is usually not an issue for our eyes as we have built in defences, such as tears and squinting, to combat the cold, however the risk of eye damage is highest in late winter and early spring, mostly because the days are getting longer.