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Winter Eye Health

Published by Auckland Eye on Thursday, 20 Jun 2019
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Cold Weather Woes: 6 Ways Winter Can Affect Your Eyes

With the sudden spike in coughs, colds and flu's during the colder months of the year, the winter season has always proven to be hard on your body. This is also true when it comes to the condition of our eyes. Now with the winter months well underway, it's important to know how to protect your eyes from extreme cold weather and be aware of the potential eye health hazards of winter conditions. 

Here are some of the ways cold weather can affect your eye health and how you can take care of your eyes this winter to help prevent certain eye problems including...


1. Excessive Tearing
While some people experience a lack of tears, others have the opposite problem during the winter months. Although one of the key functions of tears is to wash away irritants that get stuck in your eye, they also serve to protect the surface of your eyes from the environment, including cold temperatures and biting winds which are drying to the eyes. As a result, your eyes might actually water more than normal in the winter as they try to produce enough tears to combat the extra dryness from indoor heaters and harsh winds. Ironically, excessive tearing can also be a symptom of Dry Eye — which can also be triggered by the chill of winter for many people. 

Excessive tearing can be highly frustrating, especially when your tears cause your vision to become blurry and your eyes are left feeling dry and sensitive. In order to prevent excessive tearing when you step outside this winter or when the wind blows your way, wear sunglasses or goggles to protect your eyes. If you experience dry eye symptoms when you are in a heated air-conditioned environment, use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air. This can help to restore humidity and moisture to the eyes.


2. Inflammation
Even though we don't always worry about the sun's UV rays in the middle of winter, they are just as powerful as in the summer, and in some cases, more dangerous — especially at high altitudes. When you spend several hours or more skiing, skating or spending time at the snow, this exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun’s reflection on ice or snow can damage the eye’s surface, causing inflammation of the cornea, called Keratitis. Keratitis makes the eyes red, sore and sensitive to light and may require treatment with antibiotic eye drops to prevent infection. Additionally, too much exposure to UV light also plays a key role in the formation of cataracts, a progressive clouding of the lens in the eye that affects vision.

In order to prevent excessive UV exposure to the eyes during snow sports, remember to wear sunglasses or polycarbonate ski goggles that block 100% UV light. 

 

3. Light Sensitivity
Since the UV sunlight bounces off snow and ice, resulting in double exposure, some people develop a light sensitivity in the winter.  Just as your skin suffers redness and blisters from the effect of too much UV sunlight, your eyes also experience this damage, resulting in excessive tearing and eye discomfort referred to as 'snow blindness'.  Therefore, as mentioned previously,  to protect your eyes from snow blindness and to reduce your light sensitivity on the ski slopes, wear sunglasses that block 100% UV rays.

 

4. Digital Eye Strain
With the cold wet weather preventing us from going outside, people tend to stay inside and watch more television and spend more time using computers, rather than spending time outdoors. Although this increased screen time will not damage your eyes, this prolonged usage of digital devices can cause digital eye strain, resulting in tired, fatigued and dry eyes.

To help prevent digital eye strain, remember to take regular breaks from your digital screens throughout the day and practice the 20: 20:20 rule; every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. 

 

5. Dry Eye
If you already suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome, the combination of various environmental factors during the winter season,  including cold air, windy conditions and central indoor heating can make them worse and exacerbate your symptoms.To minimise the dryness and discomfort you feel in your eyes, you need to stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids and you may want to consider running a humidifier in your home. Additionally, wearing sunglasses or glasses that wrap around your face can help improve your Dry Eye by slowing down the rate of evaporation of moisture from your eyes and shielding your eyes from airborne particles and the wind. Furthermore, studies show that eating foods high in omega 3 fatty acids, like salmon and walnuts (which also contains eye-healthy vitamin E), can also help to alleviate Dry Eye symptoms.

If making these changes doesn't improve your symptoms, we advise that you book a consultation at Oasis Dry Eye Spa. At Oasis Dry Eye Spa you will receive a full clinical evaluation of the likely cause of your Dry Eye and be provided with a tailored treatment plan, customised to target the root cause of your Dry Eye. To book your introductory assessment with our Dry Eye specialist, email us on oasisspa@aucklandeye.co.nz

 

6. Blurriness or Double Vision
The cold winter weather and blustery winds can cause some people to experience temporary vision changes. For instance, in extremely low temperatures, the blood vessels in and around the eyes constricts, resulting in temporary changes in your vision (such as blurriness and double vision). These changes are most likely to occur when you stay outside for long periods of time in temperatures that are well below freezing. 
If you notice vision changes while out in the cold, go indoors and move to warmer areas as soon as possible. If your normal vision doesn't return after 30 minutes or so, consult with your eye care provider immediately. 

 

Ask Us About Cold Weather Problems
If you experience any of the above symptoms this winter, schedule an appointment with one of our highly specialised and experienced ophthalmologists. In addition, to checking the overall health of your eyes, we can provide you with self-care tips to help you get through the winter months without enduring eye discomfort. 
To book an appointment, call 0800 25 53 93. We look forward to welcoming you!

Categories: Eye Health Tips, Dry Eye

Auckland Eye - New Zealand Centre of Excellence for Eye Care