People who suffer from dry eye may sometimes dread the coming winter months. That’s because the weather is an important factor related to the severity of dry eye, and winter’s cold months are the worst time of year for the condition. In addition to the cold weather conditions, the patients we see for dry eye treatment at our Frankfort, Corydon, and other clinics in Kentuckiana may have a particularly difficult time this year because wearing masks often exacerbates the problem.
What Is Dry Eye?
Eyes that don’t produce enough of the right type of tear film can feel scratchy and sting—chronic dry eye. It’s a condition that, if left untreated, can even lead to infections and cause damage to the eyes. These symptoms tend to worsen as the air gets colder and drier. Indoor heating dries out the air inside homes and offices, making the eyes feel even worse. Decongestants or other over-the-counter cold medicines, which people take more often during cold and flu season, may also worsen the symptoms.
Many dry eye sufferers are also experiencing worsening conditions while wearing facemasks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Researchers aren’t exactly sure why this is happening—and it can also affect people who don’t suffer from dry eye, too. One theory is that loose-fitting masks allow air to flow across the eyes’ surfaces and cause evaporation. Making sure that your mask fits well is the best way to avoid this eye-drying effect.
Dry Eye Remedies
Fortunately, there are many ways to minimize dry eye symptoms during the winter months. Most of these can help people with chronic dry eye significantly reduce the burning and stinging commonly associated with the condition.
Keep eyes moist with artificial tears before eyes begin feeling dry: Not surprisingly, artificial tears are the first and most effective line of defense against dry eye. Using them at least twice a day without waiting for symptoms to develop is part of the treatment plan we often recommend.
Limit the use of heaters and never point them toward your face: Radiators and space heaters that keep your house warm exacerbate dry eye symptoms. Try to use them sparingly and definitely avoid having heaters blasting towards your eyes. The same is true for car heaters.
Use a humidifier in your bedroom and/or workspace: If drier air is the culprit that worsens your condition, adding moisture to the air is a great solution. A humidifier in the area where you spend most of your time will help keep your eyeballs adequately lubricated.
Incorporate warm eye compresses into your daily routine: Applying a warm, damp washcloth to your eyelids for a few minutes each morning can help loosen clogged oil glands, allowing the all-important oily part of the tears to lubricate the eyeballs.
Take breaks from looking at screens every 20 minutes: This is truer now more than ever with many people now working from home. It can be difficult to remember how long you’ve been staring at a laptop or tablet, so setting a timer can serve as a helpful reminder.
Minimize dust in your home: Even people who maintain a tidy home can underestimate the amount of dust that builds up on surfaces throughout the house. Dust mites are common allergy triggers, and allergies are a known trigger of dry eye symptoms. Because we spend more time inside during the winter, you’ll experience these dust-related symptoms more often. A weekly dusting can work wonders.
Avoid wood-burning fires: A cozy fire during the winter is something many people enjoy. Unfortunately, smoke causes tears to evaporate. That’s not to say you can’t hang out by a fire occasionally, especially if you’re dry eye condition is otherwise under control. But avoiding wood fires as much as possible helps avert renewed symptoms.
Our eye doctors at Dr. Black’s Eye Associates diagnose patients at our Dry Eye Center using advanced tools to detect ocular surface disease—dry eye. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms described in this post, you can contact us online to request a consultation or call our main office at (812) 284-0660 to schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations.