Here in South Carolina, our cold weather is few and far between. We are lucky that in our part of the country the warm weather stays longer and the cold weather can be relatively mild. The snow storms we have had can be counted on two hands.
Just because we have mild winters, doesn’t mean our eyes wont be affected by the cold weather. Cold weather, even mildly cold, can cause eye issues.
With this recent cold snap we have experienced, it is starting to actually feel like Fall! We wanted to remind our patients of the eye problems cold weather can create and how to combat them.
One of the main issues during cold seasons is Dry Eye Syndrome. This is an eye condition that happens when your eye tears are unable to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. There are many issues that can cause dry eye, these issues disrupt the healthy tear film of your eye. Your tear film has three layers:
- Lipid (fatty oils)
- Aqueous fluid (water)
A balance of these three layers is what keeps the surface of the eye lubricated and comfortable. If the balance of these three layers is interrupted by environment, it can cause dry eyes.
Colder months result in a rise in dry eye cases. There is a lack of moisture in the air that was there during spring and summer. The colder season also brings the use of central heating in our homes. Central heating is one of the biggest contributors to dry eyes because it speeds up the evaporation of eye moisture.
Common symptoms of dry eye are:
- gritty sensation
Other Ways Cold Weather Affects Your Eyes
Dry eye is the most common issue during colder months, there are a number of other eye conditions that are more common in the winter than the rest of the year.
Excess Tearing – this is the opposite of dry eyes. Excess tearing and watery eyes can be caused by cold air and wind. The best way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses or goggles while outside in cold temperatures.
Eye Redness – this condition is another symptom of central heating and less moisture in the air. A way to combat redness and discomfort is to apply a cold compress over your eyes.
Snow Blindness – we don’t really deal with this here in SC, but if you plan to take any trips to the mountains where there will be snow, it is an important one to remember. Snow is highly reflective, and in the winter the UV rays that come off the snow can cause you to essentially sunburn your eyes. It is incredibly important that you wear sunglasses or UV protecting goggles while enjoying any activities in the snow.
Vision Changes – due to the lower temperatures, your blood vessels around the eye may constrict. If this happens it may cause blurriness and double vision. These symptoms are usually temporary but if they persist your eye doctor can use eye drops to help bring the vessels back to their normal size.
While we don’t have some of the harsher winter weather other parts of the country may have, we do still have the same risks when temperatures drop.