Did you know that your eyes produce tears all the time? They’re critical to the health of your eyes because they keep your eyes moist and clean with every blink. Your tears are composed of three layers: oil, water, and mucus. The tears keep your eyes moist and keep the surface of your eyeball smooth and clean.
What is dry eye?
If you have dry eye, your eyes aren’t making enough tears to keep them moist and healthy. You may have a malfunction in one of the layers of your tears. Your eyes may sting or burn; they can become red and irritated. You may feel like a speck of dust or dirt is in your eye and you can’t get it out.
Those most likely to be affected by dry eye are women in menopause and people age 65 and older. As you age, your body systems slow down, and tear production can decline. If you’ve worn contact lenses for a long time or had LASIK surgery, you may also be more susceptible to dry eye.
Why is dry eye worse in winter?
Cold air is drier than warm air. When you add a whipping winter wind on top of the cold, the air becomes even drier. One study of a sample of residents in Boston who were diagnosed with dry eye found that symptoms were significantly worse in the winter and less bothersome in the more humid summer months.
In addition to your exposure to the dry, cold air outdoors in the winter, furnaces pump out dry air indoors. Portable heaters that blow air directly on you add to the dryness.
Most people living in information-driven societies spend many hours a day staring at screens. In the winter when it’s too cold to engage in sports or other outdoor activities, many people spend even more time on screens.
Researchers have discovered that when you’re looking at screens, you’re more likely to have an incomplete blink. Blinking produces the tears that keep your eyes moist and in good health. So if you’re not blinking completely, your eyes can dry out.
What steps can I take to avoid getting dry eye in winter?
Increase the humidity in the air around you
Invest in a humidifier attached to your furnace so you can regulate the percent of humidity in the indoor air in the winter. Relative humidity inside a house should be 40-60%.
Take breaks from screens
Because you can’t really be aware of whether you’re blinking enough when you’re in front of the computer, use the 20-20-20 rule: Take your eyes off of your computer every 20 minutes to look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Give your eyes a break.
Try nutritional supplements
Omega-3 fatty acids may improve the quality of the tears you produce, lessening your symptoms. Talk with your provider at In Focus Vision Center about trying supplements. Eat a healthy diet to ensure your eyes are getting the required vitamins and minerals.
Are you drinking enough water during the day? Develop the habit of taking an aluminum water container with you so you can refill frequently wherever you are. It makes a difference.
Talk with your optometrist
If you have persistent dry eye, contact In Focus Vision Center for an eye examination. Dr. Corbin-Simon and Dr. Latorre Magsaysay can prescribe specific treatments that are geared to your symptoms and that are appropriate given your medical history. Your optometrist recommends habits to develop that help protect you from dry eye. She may prescribe a prescription medication or perform an in-office treatment to provide relief.
For expert treatment of dry eye and other vision concerns, call or book an appointment online with In Focus Vision Center today. Your eyes will thank you.