With record breaking lows and a massive storm called a "bomb cyclone" (two things that should never be in a sentence together), you can say that winter is officially here.
We all know how certain health issues, such as the common cold, asthma, and arthritis, may arise or be aggravated by colder weather. When it comes to your eyes, dry eye syndrome is especially common in the wintertime. Between the cold, dry outdoor air and dry heat radiating inside, it makes sense that our bodies -- and our eyes -- experience dryness, too.
How does this happen? Exposure to dry environments can cause our tears to evaporate faster than our tear glands can produce fluid. The tear film is a protective, liquid coating that our eyes need to stay hydrated. Rapid evaporation of tears results in itchy, dry eyes that may cause pain, blurred vision, a burning sensation, or even watery vision as our eyes try to compensate for the dryness.
Here are a few steps that you can take to ensure that your eyes stay as healthy and hydrated as possible during the cold, winter season:
1. Stay Hydrated
Many people don't realize that if the body is dehydrated, so are the eyes. The cold outdoor temperatures can suppress the body's thirst mechanism, while indoor heat speeds up the evaporation of tears. To keep your body and eyes hydrated, remember to drink water throughout the day and increase your intake of fluid-rich foods, such as soups, fruits, and veggies.
Quick Tip: A simple rule to remember is to drink eight glasses (64 ounces) a day. However, this is just an estimate; the actual amount of fluid intake you need can vary depending on other factors such as exercise, environment, and overall health.
2. Take a Mega Dose of Omega 3s
Dry air can cause inflammation of the tear glands and disrupt tear production. One way to combat this inflammation is to consume a healthy amount of omega-3 fatty acids. Foods rich in omega-3s include wild salmon, mackerel, chia seeds, flaxseed, and walnuts. If you cannot obtain enough of this nutrient naturally through your diet, taking a fish oil supplement will help.
Quick Tip: Looking for a high quality omega-3 supplement specifically formulated to manage dry eye symptoms? Try HydroEye by Science Based Health.
3. Manage Your Home's Humidity
During the cold, winter months, a home’s humidity level can easily dip below 30 percent. Generally, you want to keep your home above 30 percent relative humidity, although 40-50 percent would be best. If the humidity level is too low, it can damage your eyes, sinuses, throat, and skin. Use a humidifier in your home to offset the dry air to maintain your health and to keep your eyes lubricated naturally.
Quick Tip: For cheaper alternatives of increasing the humidity in your home, get a few houseplants, leave a pot of water near your heating system, or skip turning on the exhaust fan in your bathroom while you are showering.
4. Distance Yourself from Heat Sources
Most people have their heat on in the winter, which is a common source of dry eye symptoms. Sitting farther away from heaters, air vents, and radiators can make a huge difference for your eyes.
Quick Tip: When you first get into a chilly car, avoid blasting the heat on high with the air vent towards your face. Instead, heat your feet or turn on your seat warmer until you are at a comfortable temperature.
5. Supplement Your Tears
Keep a bottle of artificial tears handy for when your eyes feel dry or irritated. I recommend using one to two drops in each eye, at least twice a day during the winter months. You can find artificial tears over-the-counter at any pharmacy.
Quick Tip: Avoid using redness relievers, such as Clear Eyes or Visine, as these decongestants can cause more harm than good. Instead, opt for higher quality brand name artificial tears, such as Blink, Refresh, Soothe XP, Systane, or Thera Tears, to name a few.
6. Wear Your Sunglasses
Did you know that the sun is closest to the earth in the winter? Or that snow reflects up to 80 percent of the UV light from the sun, meaning that you are often hit by the same damaging rays twice?This is how, even in the winter, you can still get sunburned! Snow blindness (known as photokeratitis) is a painful, temporary loss of vision due to overexposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays, so be sure to wear sunglasses while outdoors in the wintertime.
To learn more about the harmful effects of UV light, read You, Me, and UV.
7. Invest in Protective Goggles
Heading to the slopes? Invest in some goggles to protect your eyes from the harsh elements. High wind speeds can irritate and pull moisture out of your eyes, which can blur your vision. Wear goggles that fully protect your eyes and have built-in UV protection to prevent snow blindness.
Quick Tip: Here's a breakdown of how to choose the right colored lens tint for your snow goggles.
How you keep your eyes and body healthy during the winter season?
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