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Winterize Your Eyes!

Eye Health Tips to Protect Your Vision in Cold Weather.

Woman blowing into snow

For our fellow Minnesotans, we know that winter can bring periods of extreme cold. Though we may look forward to fun activities like sledding, ice skating, and snowball fights, winter can bring its own set of challenges for our eye health. Crueler weather and often dry indoor conditions that can wreak havoc on our eyes and cause much discomfort.

While the season brings beautiful snowfalls, anticipated holiday traditions, and winter sports, it also brings cold weather, which can affect the eyes in various ways. From dry eyes to watery eyes or itchy eyes, you may experience any number of eye health issues during the winter months. Plus, if you're near a snowy place, there are additional eye health challenges like allergies, snow glare, and freezing wind chills.

Your eyes are affected by winter weather conditions more than you might realize. That's why we're here to help winterize your eyes with the ultimate guide to protecting your eyes from the cold. Our team at Rivertown Eyecare is always ready to provide our customers with helpful tips on preserving equal parts fashion and function during each season!

Winter Eye Health Tips

The eyes are among the most delicate of all parts of the body, so it's best to pay attention to their health during colder months. Here are a few explanations of what causes discomfort in the winter and tips to help avoid eye issues throughout the season.

Woman in snow Winter Eye Health

Dry Eye Syndrome During Wintertime

Dry eyes can be a winter-long problem for many people. Cold temperatures and low humidity can rob your eyes of the moisture they need to stay healthy and comfortable, particularly if you wear contact lenses. Colder, drier air makes it difficult for the body, including our eyes and tear ducts, to stay properly hydrated. Also known as 'dry eye syndrome,' this common condition affects up to 16 million Americans, as estimated by the National Eye Institute. Eyes that lack sufficient lubrication may become red and irritated or even swollen, creating significant discomfort.

It's not only the cold air that is to blame– dry eyes in winter are often due to warmer indoor temperatures. Artificial heat creates an uncomfortable environment for our eyes by reducing humidity and making the air overly dry.

You can reduce discomfort and help practice healthy eye-care habits by:

  1. Using artificial tears or eye drops, as needed

  2. Avoiding rubbing your eyes

  3. Cleaning and disinfecting contacts regularly

Watery Eyes in Cold Weather

Have you ever wondered, "Why do my eyes water in winter?"

It's because cold air irritates the tear ducts, which causes them to produce more tears as a natural defense mechanism.

Additionally, dry air can also cause your eyes to become itchy and watery. To help reduce this symptom, make sure to:

  1. Use a humidifier in your home

  2. Drink plenty of water throughout the day

Sun Reflection and UV Rays

Sun reflection bouncing off of snow in winter can cause extremely high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that doubles the typical amount of exposure.

When UV rays penetrate the eyes, they can cause damage to the retina and other important structures, leading to sunburn (photokeratitis), dry eye syndrome, and even cataract development over time.

These symptoms typically last for a couple of days, after which eye health returns to normal. They might include redness, itching or burning sensations in or around the eyes, blurry vision, headache, and pain when exposed to light.

To avoid this problem, people who spend time outdoors or live in environments with snow should wear protective eyewear such as UV-resistant sunglasses or goggles. Wearing this type of protection will block out harmful rays from entering the eyes and significantly reduce risk factors related to these negative effects.

Foods for healthy vision

Healthy Habits, Healthy Eyes

We all know that winter is the season of coughs, colds, flu, and other viruses, so it is important to remember to wash your hands often! These viruses are easily transmitted from hands through mucus membranes (ie, eyes!), so have clean hands and avoid touching your eyes.

Your diet and exercise also play a vital role in the health of your eyes, especially in winter.

Omega-3 fatty acids are good for your overall health, and they effectively help combat winter eye dryness. According to the Mayo Clinic, recent research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids may act as a buffer to itchy and dry eyes by improving the production of the eye’s oil film associated with the meibomian glands.

Here is a list of foods shown to support eye health:

  • Fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna, trout, halibut

  • Carrots

  • Sweet Potato

  • Dark, leafy greens

  • Almonds

  • Avocados

  • Eggs

  • Broccoli

  • Tomato

  • Strawberries

Before starting a new supplement regimen, you should always consult with your personal care physician to understand if the change is right for you.

Contact Lenses and Extreme Cold

Do contacts freeze?

Despite temperatures dropping significantly below zero, you don't have to worry about contact lenses freezing in your eyes while you're out in the cold. Freezing of contact lenses is only possible if they're stored in a certain solution at an extremely low temperature (5 °F). In this case, the solution will protect the lenses from damage and prevent them from freezing; however, it shouldn't be used again afterward as its disinfectant potency may be compromised.

Contact lenses can also freeze without a solution, though it's more likely that they'll just dry out first. You can try rehydrating them with water; however, it's not recommended as contact lenses may be very brittle and uncomfortable to wear when frozen.

In general, wearing contact lenses in cold weather can worsen dry eye symptoms accompanied by irritation in extreme cases. This is especially true when moving between colder and warmer environments quickly due to the abrupt change of temperature and will likely require taking them off for a period of time.

Healthy Eyes, All Winter Long

Whether you wear glasses, contact lenses, or are just concerned about the health of your eyes in winter, taking these simple steps will help ensure your vision stays healthy all season long.

Wearing warm clothes with protective goggles in harsh weather and ensuring adequate hydration are two important pieces of advice for all people engaging in winter activities outdoors and indoors alike. Following these tips will help you reduce potential winter eye problems– so you don't have to worry while playing out in the snow or enjoying your favorite holiday movies at home by a cozy fireplace!


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