Why Are My Eyes Dry During Winter?
Winter air is drier and less humid in comparison to the air in warmer months. Combined with people running heaters and using antihistamines for winter sniffles, the season makes it more likely for you to have dry eyes.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Dry eyes usually occur when either the eyes don't produce enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly. Increased evaporation of tears can lead to increased dry eye symptoms. Evaporation occurs faster in the colder, dry air of winter, especially when people run the heater, compared to the moister, humid summer air. Other factors leading to evaporation are air blowing from vents or fans, or extended use of the eyes such as increased screen time without breaks.
Another cause of dry eyes is the lack of tear production. This issue is most commonly due to aging but can be related to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, hormonal changes, or a side effect of many medications like antihistamines, antidepressants and blood pressure medications. A combination of dry eyes and dry mouth can occur in Sjogren's Syndrome and autoimmune conditions which can be diagnosed with a blood test.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes
Dry eyes, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, are one of the most common conditions to affect the eyes. In fact, over 70% of older patients experience chronic or intermittent dry eyes. Common dry eye symptoms include:
- Frequent burning
- Watery eyes
- A sandy, gritty feeling
- Eye fatigue
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurry eyes while reading, watching TV, using a computer or driving
Treatment for Dry Eyes
For dry eyes, there are many forms of treatment to consider. For example, modifying your routine and work environment to include closing your eyes for a minute every 20-30 minutes, and redirecting fans and vents away from your face. Placing artificial tears in your eyes several times a day can be very helpful in restoring your tear film and reducing symptoms. If needed, prescription eye drops can be helpful in rebuilding healthier tear glands.
In most patients, dry eyes are limited to occasional symptoms. In severe cases, permanent corneal injury can occur. For this reason, an eye doctor should be consulted if relief cannot be achieved by over-the-counter counter remedies and taking breaks.
Schedule an Ophthalmology and Optometry appointment with Ochsner Health.