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It is commonly known that the colder winter months can lead to dry skin and chapped lips. What is not as well known is the effect that same dry winter air can have on the eyes. During the winter, the cold dry wind outside, alongside the resulting heat blasted inside, causes a disruption in the stability of tears.
Many people experience eye symptoms in the wintertime and don’t realize dry eye inflammation is the culprit, since one of the more common symptoms experienced is excessive tearing. Our eyes have a natural defense system, and when the eyes become too dry, a compensation mechanism triggers the release of reflex tears. Unfortunately, these reflex tears can be excessive and annoying and don't have the stability needed to repair more advanced dryness.
Some other symptoms of dry eyes include a foreign body sensation (feeling that something is consistently in your eye), itching, burning and eye fatigue. While the cold winter air can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, the eyes can become even more symptomatic if you spend a good portion of the day looking at a digital screen. When concentrating on a computer screen or tablet, or even watching TV, your blink rate decreases by half, thereby slowing the eyes’ natural tear production.
Below you will find ways to improve winter dry eye inflammation:
1. HYDRATE HYDRATE HYDRATE!
Keep sipping that water bottle throughout the day and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables that are high in water content. Keeping your body hydrated helps replenish the aqueous part of your tears.
2. WARM COMPRESSES / DRY EYE MASKS
Warm compresses and dry eye masks help us to stimulate the flow of oil producing glands helping to combat evaporative tear loss. This helps the eyes natural defense mechanism to fight tear evaporation and eye dryness. If you don't have a heated eye mask, the OcuSci Dry Eye Compress is available at EYESPOT.
3. ARTIFICIAL TEARS
Artificial tears are available over-the-counter, but you want to make sure to use actual rewetting and not a product designed to "take the red out" such as Visine or Clear Eyes as these drops have chemicals that can irritate the eye further. A preservative-free artificial tear is best to keep the eye lubricated and comfortable. Start by using the drops 4 times daily and reassess how your eyes feel. Some brands of preservative-free artificial tears I recommend are Refresh Plus, Refresh Optive and Systane Ultra.
4. OMEGA 3'S
DHA and EPA found in cold water fish will improve dry eye inflammation and improve tear stability. If fish can't be a part of your diet, then you can increase your flaxseed intake which contains a high level of ALA that gets converted to DHA and EPA in the body. Fish and flax seed oil, along with other plant-based vegan Omega-3 supplements, can also be bought over-the-counter.
If these recommendations are failing to ease your symptoms, then you should see your eye care professional. Your eye doctor can assess the type and severity of your dry eyes and make further treatment recommendations if necessary. You can schedule an exam to have your dry eyes evaluated here.
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