There is a large variety of issues involving the eyes to deal with in the winter. Dry eyes and protection from harmful ultraviolet light reflecting from snow-covered surfaces are the most common issues people experience.
Eyes can be aggravated by such environmental conditions as warm air blasting from the vents in cars, offices and homes, bitterly cold winds whipping at our faces and even wet, moldy spaces.
Dry eye symptoms
Dry eye symptoms include:
- stinging or burning eyes
- A sandy or gritty feeling in the eye
- A stringy discharge from the eye
- Pain and redness of the eye
- Episodes of blurred vision
- Heavy eyelids
- Inability to cry when emotionally stressed
- Discomfort wearing contact lenses, depending on the style and fit
- Decreased tolerance of reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention
- Eye fatigue
- Episodes of excess tears following very dry eye periods
Seeing your doctor of optometry
Doctors of optometry can provide patients with a number of treatment options that can help them conserve tears (tiny silicone or gel-like plugs), increase tear production (eye drops and omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements) and decrease inflammation around the eyes’ surface (eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, and eyelid cleaners).
Often over-the-counter artificial tears-which may contain an oily mix to help replace the layer of tear film-are recommended. Doctors also may look at patients’ medications (for blood pressure, pain and anti-depression) because they may exacerbate dry eye.
People also can reduce their own discomfort by:
- Blinking regularly
- Increasing the humidity in the air
- Wearing sunglasses
- Taking nutritional supplements
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Performing the 20/20/20 rule for digital eyestrain.
Protecting your eyes against UV radiation
Perhaps one of the more overlooked protections in winter are sunglasses and goggles. Fresh snow can reflect nearly 80 percent of UV radiation from the sun. If you are an active skier, snowboarder, tobogganer or outdoor hockey player you especially need to protect your eyes from reflected UV rays.
We recommend wearing high-quality sunglasses that adequately protect your eyes by blocking out 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays and screening out 75-90 percent of visible light. Optometric associations also recommend patients regularly see their doctors of optometry for a comprehensive eye exam to monitor their eye health.