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Last Days of Winter Can be Hard on Eyes; Vanderbilt Ophthalmologist Offers Care Tips

Feb. 20, 2013, 10:21 AM

Some of the last days of winter can be among the worst for your eyes.

Winter may be slowly giving way to spring, but the remaining cold days of the season can cause plenty of trouble for the eyes—trouble that is largely avoidable, says a Vanderbilt Eye Institute ophthalmologist.

“This is particularly noticeable in patients who are already experiencing dry eye symptoms and in those who wear contact lenses or suffer from chronic allergies,” says Mark Ewald, M.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.

During the cold months the air outside, as well as indoors, is typically drier. The lack of moisture can make the surfaces of the eye drier, as well as cause irritation, itchiness and discomfort, he says.

Ewald suggests the following to help reduce dry eyes:

  • The use of artificial tears or eye drops can help keep eyes moistened. There are several remedies including over-the-counter gels, drops or lubricants to help resolve minor irritations
  • For those experiencing a more severe case of dry eyes, there are prescription treatments available.
  • Warm compresses may also be soothing.
  • Use humidifiers in the home to help increase humidity levels.
  • Wear sunglasses (even if it’s cloudy) to protect eyes against wind and damaging UV rays.
  • When participating in outdoor athletic activities, wearing an athletic visor/mask or goggles when appropriate can also help protect the eyes from harsh weather elements.
  • Blink. Blinking and closing the eyes redistributes and establishes a tear film over the front of your eyes, which improves vision, comfort and lubrication.
  • Don’t rub your eyes. Eye-rubbing can lead to inflammation of the ocular surface which degrades tear quality. Rubbing can also lead to corneal abrasions, which are painful scratches in the eye.

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