As the temperature begins to drop, it’s not unusual to notice that your eyes feel dry.
Dry eyes in winter are usually caused by cold weather and windy conditions outside. And as the air gets drier, our eyes — much like our skin — lose moisture. Dry eyes in winter are also worsened by blasting the heat at home since heaters contribute to dryness in the air.
In this article, we go over some of the most common causes of dry eyes in winter and what you can do to relieve and prevent them.
Causes of Dry Eyes in Winter
Your eyes may feel drier than usual in the winter mainly because of cold weather and windy conditions. When the cold settles in and the wind whips around you, the tears coating the surface of your eyes can evaporate too quickly, resulting in dryness.
Your eyes aren’t safe inside either. When you turn on the heater at home, you expose your eyes to dry heat. This, in turn, can cause your tears to evaporate.
Symptoms of dry eyes in winter include:
- Eye dryness
- Eye fatigue
- Itchy eyes
- Blurred vision
- Light sensitivity
If you’re a contact lens wearer, you may also have a more difficult time inserting your contacts, or they may feel less comfortable than usual.
Ironically, your eyes may get watery as well. That’s because eyes produce more watery tears when they’re irritated.
How to Relieve and Prevent Dry Eyes in Winter
You may not be able to fast-forward to spring, but you can relieve and prevent dry eyes in winter by following these tips.
Don’t forget to blink, especially when using digital devices.
2. Drink more water
Drinking enough water may seem less important in the winter, but your eyes still need hydration.
3. Quit smoking
Smoke from cigarettes can irritate the eyes and cause them to dry out. Quit smoking for the sake of your eyes, and try to avoid being around people who smoke.
4. Avoid rubbing your eyes
Rubbing your eyes may feel satisfying at the moment, but it can worsen dryness.
5. Avoid wearing your contact lenses too long
Replace your contact lenses as recommended by your eye doctor or the manufacturer. Waiting too long to replace your contacts can put you at risk of complications far worse than eye dryness, including eyelid swelling, corneal abrasion, and keratitis.
6. Wear protective glasses
Wear wrap-around glasses when outdoors to protect your eyes from cold, dry wind in the winter.
7. Invest in an indoor humidifier
Complement your heater with a humidifier to restore some moisture to the air.
However, keep in mind that the moisture in humidifiers can naturally attract mold, which can turn your otherwise helpful humidifier into a breeding ground for illness. It’s imperative that you clean them regularly.
8. Use lubricating eye drops
Eye drops are a quick and effective solution to dry, itchy eyes in winter. They help add moisture that your eyes are lacking.
Eye drops can be bought over the counter in most pharmacies. If you wear contacts, make sure that the formula of the eye drops you’re using is safe to use with contacts.
Most eye drops can be applied as often as needed to relieve dryness. That being said, you should read the label or speak to your pharmacist to make sure you’re not overusing them.
9. Manage your screen time
When we stare at a digital screen, we tend to blink less. This can lead to eye dryness.
To avoid eye dryness when using digital devices, follow the 20-20-20 rule. The rule says that after 20 minutes staring at a screen, you should spend 20 seconds looking at an object 20 feet away.
10. Eat a healthy diet
Our eyes are complex organs that require many different nutrients to stay healthy and function properly.
To maintain good vision and healthy eyes, make sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet loaded with fruits and vegetables.
Windy conditions, low humidity, and indoor heat can dry our eyes in the winter, but that shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the season. Follow the tips above to relieve and prevent dry eyes in wintertime.
If you struggle with eye dryness year-round, consult your eye doctor. Only an eye care professional can properly determine the cause of your dry eyes and figure out a treatment plan tailored to your eye health.