January 31, 2014

Vanderbilt ophthalmologist offers tips for healthy eyes in winter

Cold weather can be rough on skin, drying it out and making it itchy and uncomfortable, but winter can also be harsh on another part of body—the eyes.

During the winter months, the air outside and indoors is typically dry. The lack of moisture can make the surfaces of the eye drier as well causing irritation, itching and discomfort, says Mark Ewald, M.D., assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the Vanderbilt Eye Institute.

“This is particularly noticeable in people who are already experiencing dry eye symptoms, those who wear contact lenses or those who suffer from chronic allergies,” Ewald says.

Ewald suggests the following tips to help reduce dry eyes this winter:

·         Blink. Blinking and closing the eyes redistributes and establishes a tear film over the front of your eyes, which improves vision, comfort and lubrication.
·         The use of artificial tears or eye drops can help keep the eye moistened. There are several remedies including over-the-counter gels, drops or lubricants to help resolve minor irritations.
·         Don’t rub your eyes. Eye rubbing can lead to inflammation of the ocular surface, degrades tear quality, and can cause painful corneal abrasions.
·         Prescription treatments are available for those experiencing a more severe case of dry eyes.
·         Warm compresses may soothe eyes.
·         Use humidifiers in the home.
·         Wear sunglasses outdoors to protect eyes against wind and damaging UV rays.
·         When participating in outdoor athletic activities, wearing an athletic visor/mask or goggles can also help protect the eyes from harsh weather elements.