Dry eyes are a common complaint, especially in winter time. Doctors at New Jersey Eye Center, for instance, encounter the ailment on a daily basis these days. But what causes dry eyes in winter and how can you help yourself feel better? Be aware that very cold wintry weather aggravates dry eyes. So don’t stay out in the cold too long!
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Basically, dry eyes occur when tears either fail to form properly, or when they contain insufficient lubricants. Many factors can cause this, and a person’s overall health condition is relevant.
Most dry eyes are attributed to what doctors call Evaporative Dry Eye. Here the tears evaporate too quickly because the glands that produce tear film are blocked or inflamed. Tear film is a lubricant that helps prevent tears from evaporating.
A much rarer condition – Aqueous Dry Eye – is when the eye fails to produce enough tears. Over time, this can lead to the eye becoming more irritable or scratchy.
Dry Eyes in Winter
Contrary to popular belief, one of the symptoms of dry eyes is when they water. Dry eyes that water produce tears with insufficient lubricants. Other symptoms include redness of the eye, eye fatigue, lack of clear vision, and sensitivity to light. And be aware that symptoms tend to be worse for dry eyes in winter.
Don’t despair – there are things you can do to alleviate dry eye syndrome.
So here are our do’s and don’ts to avoid dry eyes in winter.
Have a humidifier. Do you live or work in a very dry environment? If so a humidifier, which increases the air’s moisture content, may help.
Do warm compresses. At home, one thing you can do is try warm compresses. These work by unblocking tear ducts and can be soothing and beneficial. However, you need to apply the compress twice a day for at least 10 minutes. In addition, research suggests that compresses less than 108 degrees Fahrenheit are ineffective.
Apply a warm, moist face-cloth to the eyelids, to help cleanse them when washing your face before bed-time.
Blink more frequently, especially if you are on the computer. Try to practice full blinks where you squeeze the eye-lids together for a second or two.
Wear quality sunglasses. In all weathers, including in winter, wearing quality sunglasses can also help protect your eyes from damaging UV rays, dust, as well as wind, rain and snow.
Remove eye make-up. Be sure to remove eye make-up which can clog tear ducts or glands.
See your doctor!
You might also want to read: Six Best Remedies For Dry Eyes
Don’t sit for too long in a heavily air-conditioned room!
Try not to sit for too long in a heavily air-conditioned room. If you have the controls, turn the air-con off or down.
Don’t spend a lot of time in very cold or windy places.
Don’t spend too long on your computer or smartphones.
Another common problem these days and generally is people spending too long on their computers or smartphones. Research suggests people who are concentrating on their laptops, etc., blink about 60 per cent less frequently than normally. This decreases the chances of the eye remaining properly lubricated. Always take sensible screen breaks – this also applies to TV.
Medical procedures for dry eyes
Whatever happens, we recommend a thorough eye exam with your ophthalmologist or eye doctor. If the diagnosis is dry eyes, he or she usually prescribes eye drops as the first line of attack. If that fails, different types of eye drops are worth trying, including those containing steroids.
If the eye drops and other measures fail to make a noticeable difference to your dry eyes, other options are available. Your eye doctor will advise. For example, New Jersey Eye Center offers tear plugs (punctual plugs). These are placed into the tear duct, and prevent tears from draining away from the eye. This helps to maintain the eye’s lubrication.
Another procedure, called Lipiflow, uses a device to massage the eyes and unclog the meibomian glands. The device works by targeting heat at the lower lids and upper globe. This painless and soothing outpatient procedure only takes about 12 minutes.
While Lipiflow is not a permanent solution, it can help alleviate dry eye symptoms in the short to medium term. Full effects of the treatment are usually felt after several weeks.
Dr. James Dello Russo heads the New Jersey Eye Center, and has successfully used Lipiflow treatments on many patients.