Eyes in the Cold

Dr. Diane Spada

In the dry winter months, often our eyes continually tear. Sounds like a contradiction? The dry air from outdoor cold, along with the heating indoors, act as an irritant to the eyes as our tear film evaporates at a high rate. In response to the grit and ‘foreign body sensation’, the eyes tend to over-tear in attempt to flush it.

So what can we do? While indoors, and especially when concentrating on desk tasks, consciously blink more frequently. There is a 20/20/20 rule-of-thumb: every 20 minutes of desk work, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows our blink rate to normalize and refresh the tear layers on the eyes. Artificial tears, although not treating an underlying condition, can temporarily relieve dryness symptoms. If possible, you can also consider an indoor humidifier.

Outdoors, prescription eyeglasses and sunglasses can cut down on the direct exposure to the cold wind, as well as decrease the harmful effects of UV light that is reflected from the snow.

If the irritation from dryness continue, it is always best to consult your professional eye care practitioner to assess.

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