St. Louis winters bring many temperature fluctuations and weather patterns, which can cause eye discomfort. As the colder months arrive, most people remain indoors with heaters constantly blowing dry air.
As a result, dry eye disease symptoms arise more frequently during the season. If you’re suffering from dry eyes in winter, there are several steps you can take to find relief, from over-the-counter eye drops to lifestyle changes.
Dry Eye Disease and Symptoms
Dry eye disease occurs when your eyes don’t make enough tears or when the tears aren’t of high quality and evaporate quickly. Tears are necessary for maintaining eye health, so you’re likely to feel uncomfortable when they’re unbalanced.
Tears spread across the eye’s cornea or outer surface every time we blink. They keep the eyes wet and smooth and flush away infection-causing bacteria. However, if your ocular surface doesn’t receive enough quality tears, a chronic condition called dry eye disease is often the result.
Dry eye disease affects nearly 16 million (one out of every seven) Americans over the age of 21 every year. When winter weather settles in, many patients with dry eye disease experience further exaggerated symptoms, which may include:
- Stinging or burning sensation in the eyes
- Scratchy feeling, like there’s something in the eyes
- Stringy mucus in and around the eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Light sensitivity
- Red eyes
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty driving at night
- Watery eyes (the body’s response to irritation)
However, there are some steps you can take to alleviate your symptoms this winter as the air turns colder and retains less moisture.
How to Alleviate Dry Eyes in Winter
There are several ways to combat dry eyes in winter. Many factors influence the onset of dry eye disease, so some solutions may work better than others.
1. Add a humidifier.
A common trigger of dry eye symptoms in winter is a lack of moisture in the air. The cold winter air outdoors contains significantly less moisture than a humid summer day. Further, indoor heating systems blow warm, dry air. As a result, you’re surrounded by dryness wherever you go.
Adding a portable humidifier to rooms where you spend the most time, such as your bedroom, family room, or workspace, can help relieve your symptoms. Central humidifiers may help further by circulating moist air throughout the home.
2. Use eye protection.
Winters commonly bring frigid temperatures and high winds. Therefore, as you step outside, you come into contact with two dry eye triggers at once – even if you’re only walking into a store. It’s in your best interest to use eye protection year-round, especially during winter.
Wraparound sunglasses or goggles protect your eyes from every angle. Debris and dry air have a harder time affecting your eyes when you wear adequate protection.
3. Block heat from your face.
When we first sit in our cars during winter, we often turn the heat up to feel more comfortable. However, we frequently turn the vents toward our faces. Like the dry, warm air indoors, the car heater can make your tears evaporate faster when directed toward the eyes.
When you enter the car, aim the vent away from your face. Doing so keeps the low humidity from hitting your eyes. Furthermore, although there’s certainly no issue with enjoying your home’s cozy fireplace, ensure you’re not sitting directly in front of it.
4. Try artificial tears.
Over-the-counter (OTC) eye drops are a standard solution for dry eye symptoms year-round. If your symptoms are relatively mild, these artificial tears may be the only thing you need. However, there’s more than one kind, so ensure you use the best type for your condition.
Most eye drops contain preservatives that help prevent germs from growing inside the bottle. However, it’s important to note that these preservatives often worsen your symptoms. If that’s the case for you, consider switching to preservative-free eye drops to relieve dry eyes in winter.
5. Take extra precautions while traveling.
Winter break allows families to travel. If your family plans to fly, visit a ski resort, or both this winter, you must take extra precautions to protect your eyes. The air is significantly drier in planes and at high altitudes.
Communicate your plans with your doctor to ensure you’re adequately protected. The Dry Eye Institute of St. Louis specialists can recommend the best methods to implement and items to bring according to your symptoms.
6. Visit the Dry Eye Institute of St. Louis.
The team of eye doctors at the Dry Eye Institute of St. Louis dedicates their practice to helping patients suffering from dry eye. Although no cure for dry eye disease exists, we at the Dry Eye Institute aim to diagnose the root cause of your condition and treat it accordingly.
We possess the necessary tools and equipment to diagnose and treat your symptoms accurately. With the proper regime in place, you can experience significant relief. Our team has early access to new medications and products, so you can be confident that you’re receiving the best treatment and service.
Get Relief for Your Winter Dry Eyes
You’ll receive industry-leading testing and treatment when you visit the Dry Eye Institute of St. Louis. We aim to identify the root cause of your symptoms and create a personalized treatment plan so you can live without discomfort.
You don’t have to let dry eyes in winter keep you from enjoying life – visit us for relief! We’re open for regular hours, even in the harshest winter conditions. Schedule your appointment with Dr. Bourn or Dr. Weis today, snow or shine. We’re here to help.