After a long winter season, we see many patients coming in with sandy, gritty, burning and watery eyes. These symptoms usually indicate a deficiency in the tear film layer, which covers the eye causing dry eyes. The tear film layer is made up of 3 sub layers and a deficiency in any of these layers can give us dry eyes. Other factors can also include age, ceiling fans, heaters, smoking and contact lenses. In addition certain medications such as blood pressure medication, diuretics, anti-depressants or anti-allergy medication can also increase dry eye symptoms.
For some people winter seems to make dry eye symptoms worse since our tear glands have difficulty producing enough fluid to maintain moisture. Many of our patients tell us that their eyes are watery when they go outside during the winter months. Our eyes get so dry during these months with the cold air that a ‘signal’ is sent to tear glands to secrete tears called reflex tearing. These reflux tears are not hydrated to keep the eyes nourished and are simply just watery tears similar to when you chop an onion.
So what can you do to avoid dry eye symptoms and these reflux tears?
Check out these quick tips to help with dry eyes:
- Use Humidifiers: Central heating can dry out the air and in turn, reduce moisture in the eyes. If that’s the case consider investing in a humidifier for your bedroom. Moist air will help prevent further fluid evaporation from your eyes and stop those dry eye symptoms before they begin.
- Rest up: Give your eyes a break and get enough sleep each night! If you’re waking up with sticky eyes, you could be dealing with blepharitis. Blepharitis is closely associated with dry eye disease and it often occurs during the winter months. We recommend cleaning your lids and lashes with something less abrasive like baby shampoo and applying a hot compress.
- Drink up: Drink a few extra glasses of water each day during the winter. For hot beverages drink something with antioxidant properties like green tea.
- Omega-3: Supplement with omega-3! Dry eyes require the omega-3 fatty acids that our bodies can’t produce on their own. To keep your eyes symptom-free, take a daily supplement.
- Sunglasses: Sunglasses will help protect your eyes from those cold winds leading to reflex tearing. Sunglasses also help to protect your eyes from sun damage. Remember to choses sunglasses with proper UV protection.
- Take a computer break: Computer users often suffer from dry eyes since the rate of blinking decreases which can lead to evaporation of the tear film. Take a 15 min break for every hour of computer work. This will give your blink rate a chance to return to normal and also help the tear film lubricate the surface of the eye.
- Check your contact lenses: If you wear contact lenses make sure you are replacing and cleaning them diligently. Go one step further and make sure you’re using the right type of solution. Some solutions contain preservatives that can break down the tear film and cause the uncomfortable dry eye symptoms. Talk to your doctor for the right guidance.
It’s important to maintain a good quality tear film. Be diligent with your regime and your eyes will thank you!
If you have any questions about dry eyes or eye health in general, feel free to call us and we’ll be happy to help.