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Winter Eye Care

Each winter, cold weather presents challenges for even the healthiest eyes. Itchy and dry winter eyes are the most common issues experienced during the colder months. There are many factors that contribute to itchy and dry eyes in winter, but you can combat them with these useful tips about winter eye care and winter eye protection for you and your family.

Causes Of Dry And Itchy Eyes In Winter

Here are a few of the culprits that exacerbate dry and itchy eyes in winter.

  • Low Humidity - Cold air holds less moisture than warm air, leading to lower humidity levels in winter. The lack of humidity in the air is what causes dry, itchy, and burning eyes.
  • Indoor Heating - When the temperature drops, indoor heating can’t be avoided. When the cold air from outside is heated, it loses more moisture before it’s vented indoors, contributing to even lower humidity inside. The dry heated indoor air can cause severe dry eyes in winter.
  • Winter Colds and Flus - Lower humidity levels can cause viruses and germs to thrive and spread. Touching or rubbing eyes before cleaning hands can increase the risk of germs getting into eyes, causing irritated, itchy eyes in winter.
  • Less Eye Protection - While healthy and safe eye protection practices should remain consistent throughout the year, many people are more lenient with their winter eye protection, especially when it comes to protecting eyes from the sun. The low angle of the sun in winter exposes us to more direct ultraviolet (UV) rays. Winter sunglasses offer protection from glare and UV light that can cause itchy, dry eyes in winter. In addition, it’s important to retain eye moisture by protecting eyes from cold, gusty winds. Winter eye protection is also essential for snow sports such as skiing, snowboarding, skating, and sledding.

Winter Eye Protection And Care

Now that we know about the causes of dry and itchy eyes in winter, let’s explore ways to alleviate eye discomfort through winter eye protection and care.

Wear Winter Sunglasses.

Wear Winter Sunglasses

Most people understand the importance of protecting their skin and eyes from the sun during the summer, but the risks of the sun's damaging rays are often overlooked during the winter. UV light is a known causative agent in the development of skin cancer, cataracts, and macular degeneration. During the winter months, the sun's glare on the snow and ice can cause painful snow blindness, or photokeratitis, without the proper eyewear. Sunglasses can fight the double-dose of UV light your eyes are exposed to by shielding from winter glare and direct UV rays. When selecting winter sunglasses, ensure they offer 100% UV protection and consider polarized lenses. Sunglasses with polarized lenses have a special filter to reduce glare and provide sharp, clear vision. Polarized sunglasses can increase visibility when driving in snowy conditions and participating in outdoor snow activities. Furthermore, wraparound, contoured, and aviator sunglass designs help protect peripheral vision from the sun’s glare and UV rays.

Wear Goggles For Outdoor Snow Sports.

Wear Goggles For Outdoor Snow Sports

Winter weather conditions are important to consider when choosing proper eye protection for skiing or participating in other winter sports. Before winter weather is in full force, think about protecting your eyes, especially if you're an outdoor enthusiast and plan to be active this winter. Skiing goggles offer full eye protection from snow and ice spraying into your face while skiing down the slopes. For those who ski through wooded areas, ski goggles protect the eyes from tree branches, twigs, dirt, and other debris that could cause eye injuries. Also, keep in mind that the sun is even more intense in higher altitudes, and the sunlight will reflect off the snow and into your eyes. This puts skiers and snowboarders at a higher risk of sun damage. Opting for winter sports goggles that provide 100% UV protection will keep your eyes safe from the sun. Just remember to also wear sunscreen and a helmet, and you’ll be ready to hit the slopes!

Wear Winter Hats or Hoods.

Wear Winter Hats Or Hoods

Shelter your eyes from freezing temperatures and harsh winds that lead to dry winter eyes. Hats, hoods, and scarves offer some winter eye protection from the elements. You’ll feel warmer, dryer, and cozier when you venture outside, and your eyes will thank you for the extra protection.

Use Eye Drops.

Use Eye Drops

Ask your eye doctor about eye drops for dry winter eyes. Rewetting drops add moisture back into your eyes to provide temporary relief from dry, itchy eyes in winter. Preservative-free artificial tears are typically safe to use frequently. Your eye doctor can recommend eye drops that will work best for you and your eye conditions.

Use Humidifiers at Home.

Use Humidifiers at Home

Humidifiers disperse moisture into indoor air to relieve dry eyes, skin, nose, and throats. Portable humidifiers can be placed in bedrooms and family rooms to increase indoor humidity levels and alleviate itchy, dry eyes in winter. Another option is a whole-house humidifier system, which is added to a furnace to distribute water vapor throughout the house. The ideal humidity level for healthy eyes and skin is around 45%. Test the humidity level in your home with a humidity meter this winter to see if you and your family could benefit from humidifiers.

Divert Heat Vents Away From Eyes.

Divert Heat Vents Away from Eyes

While driving in a car or working in an office, ensure that heat vents are not blasting directly in your eyes. Divert or turn heat vents away from your eyes to prevent dry eyes in winter.

Stay Hydrated.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day hydrates our entire bodies, including our eyes and skin. Keep your eyes moisturized and relieve dry winter eyes by staying hydrated this winter.

Wash Hands Before Touching Eyes.

Wash Hands Before Touching Eyes

Winter time is cold and flu season, so be extra diligent about washing hands to reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria. Never touch or rub your eyes without washing your hands first. Germs from your fingers can quickly spread to your eyes and make them irritated and itchy.

Wear Contacts Less and Glasses More.

Wear Contacts Less And Glasses More

Dry winter eyes can make wearing contacts for extended periods uncomfortable during the colder, drier months. You may find wearing glasses more provides enhanced comfort for your dry eyes in winter. Glasses with photochromic lenses will protect eyes from the winter sun. Whether you're spending a lot of time outside this winter or not, sunglasses, protective sport goggles, and humidifiers can relieve many of the ocular irritations caused by winter weather before they even begin. Visit your local Visionworks and a Visionworks optometrist for protective eyewear and further information on winter eye care.

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