When the snowy, cold air of winter rolls in we take steps to protect ourselves from cold and flu, but did you know that winter air presents issues for our vision health too? The brisk wind and freezing temperatures take a toll on your skin and can also be harsh on your eyes. Let’s go over some factors that impact your vision during winter months and how best to care for your eyes both indoors and outdoors throughout the season.
Factors that Affect Your Vision in Winter
- Dry Outdoor Air – In the winter, the outdoor temperature drops significantly and the air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as it does in other months. Cold winds can be quite dehydrating to skin and eyes, which both need proper moisture in order to be healthy. When the air is dry, the surface of your eye (which is 99% water) loses moisture content quickly due to evaporation and can become dehydrated, dry and irritated.
- Warm Indoor Air – Indoor dryness is the result of having the heat on all of the time to combat against the cold temperatures outdoors. Warm, dry air is even more dehydrating than cold air and creates an uncomfortable and dehydrating environment for our eyes. It can also contain more dehydrating elements like bacteria and ambient skin flora with dry air being re-circulated throughout your home.
- UV Radiation – While the sparkling, white snow is beautiful to look at in winter, it can also be damaging to your eyes. The sun reflects off of snowy and icy surfaces which expose our eyes to harmful UV rays just as strong as in warmer months. Some of the symptoms of sunburnt eyes include blurriness, pain, redness and an overall gritty feeling.
Tips to Keep Your Eyes Hydrated and Healthy
1. Drink a lot of fluids – Keeping your body hydrated can also help maintain the moisture in your eyes. Drinking water is great for your skin and overall health, and is equally important for your eyes. We tend to drink more water during the warmer months when the sun is shining, but making sure that you are staying hydrated throughout the winter is crucial too.
2. Use a humidifier – If you are spending a lot of time indoors, it can be worthwhile to use a humidifier to bring some moisture back into the warm, dry air. While heating your home is essential in wintertime, it also results in the air becoming too dried out. Your eyes draw moisture from your environment so using a humidifier will ensure that they are getting the quality of air that they need to be healthy.
3. Blink more often – Most people feel their eyes drying out most while reading, using a computer or staring at screens for extended amounts of time. Our blinking slows down when we are engaging in activities which require our focused visual attention. Blinking more often is an effective way to get around this problem so that our eyes continue to produce lubrication in the form of tears.
4. Keep your distance from heat sources – Although it might feel cozy to sit right next to a warm fire or heater in winter, all of that hot air dries your eyes out quickly. Try to limit your time spent in close proximity to heat sources, especially if you are not using a humidifier. When in a vehicle with the heat on, point the car vents away from your face to help protect your eyes from drying out.
5. Apply a warm compress – Regularly applying a warm compress to your lids is a great step to add to your winter eyecare routine. Doing so helps keep your tear glands in a good shape to produce tears and reduce irritability from the dry winter air.
Winter Eye Care Tips for Healthy Vision
6. Use artificial tears – If the above tips aren’t enough to keep your eyes from drying out, speak with your Optometrist about using artificial tears. They will examine your eyes in detail to understand the direct causes of your dry eyes and might recommend using artificial tears to assist in adding moisture. These artificial tears are made up of a specific combination of water, oil and mucus which helps to manage rapid evaporation.
7. Keep your hands away from your eyes – Rubbing your eyes will only cause more discomfort and irritation, as well as increase the risk of bacteria or viruses being transferred to them.
8. Use protective eyewear – When you are out hitting the slopes this winter, make sure that you are wearing protective eyewear to keep your eyes safe. A pair of quality goggles is a great investment if you are planning on spending time engaging in outdoor winter activities. Whether you are skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling or skating, wearing quality goggles will stop snow particles from entering your eyes.
9. Choose high UV blocking sunglasses – As previously mentioned, the UV rays in winter can be very damaging to your eyes as they are reflected off of snowy and icy surfaces. Most of us are unaware of how strong these UV rays can be in the winter, but keeping your 100% UV blocking sunglasses handy for all outdoor adventures (even a 15 minute walk to the store) is the best way to protect your eyes. You can also choose to wear a hat or visor to keep blowing snow from getting underneath your sunglasses and into your eyes.
Maintaining Healthy Winter Vision is Simple
10. Add cold water fish to your diet – Cold water fish are packed with Omega-3 based essential fatty acids which can be helpful in retaining moisture. Adding cold water fish into your winter diet will offer your eyes well needed lubrication to combat against dehydration. Some popular examples of these types of fish are halibut and tuna.
11. Protect your eyes from snow – If you get snow in your eyes, not only does it itch and sting, but those little ice chips can also cause damage to your cornea. If you are preparing to go out into a blizzard, make sure to shield your eyes from the blowing snow.
12. Give your eyes a break from contact lenses – If you wear contact lenses, having dry eyes can be even more of an issue. Rewetting drops can help your eyes feel better and can help you see more clearly. Not all eye drops are appropriate to use with contact lenses, so speak with your Optometrist about which options are right for your eyecare needs. Give your eyes a break once in a while as well by switching back to wearing glasses when dealing with dry eye symptoms.
Pay attention to what your eyes are telling you. If you are experiencing chronic dry, irritated, or itchy eyes, make an appointment with our Optometrists and they will examine your eyes to determine the causes and help you manage and treat your symptoms. If you have any questions about protecting your vision in the winter, please feel free to contact us and ask. We are committed to providing our patients with personalized care throughout all seasons.