With the holidays now passed, you can finally feel winter weather settling in—especially this past week. And with this early January weather, you might start asking yourself a few questions: Why did I eat so many Christmas cookies? Can I retire my reindeer sweater till next year? … And why do my eyes feels so dry?
Although ocular dryness can be a year round issue for some individuals, for others it can be seasonal. Several factors help create this problem in the winter:
- Dry, gusty winds: it seems this is a trademark of Hampton Roads’ winters. What we lack in snow, we seem to make up for in wind. If not wearing eye protection, these winds can disrupt the quality and quantity of the tear film that is needed to cover and comfort your eyes.
- Home and Automobile Heaters: these create constant circulations of dry, hot air that can wreak havoc on your eyes
- Dehydration: drinking water and keeping hydrated is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer
- Cold Medicines: winter weather brings winter sniffles and the use of over-the-counter cold remedies. Many of these medicines will create varying levels of ocular dryness.
Thankfully, you have many options to treat seasonal Dry Eye Syndrome and get your eyes feeling comfortable again.
The most obvious option is over-the-counter artificial tears, with the warning that not all tear drops are created equal. In fact, no one tear drop brand is best suited for every individual. I take the approach of matching the tear brand (based on its preservatives, its thickness, and its chemical composite) to the patient’s individual symptoms, severity of dryness, and associated findings. One of my most highly recommended brands is Systane Ultra, but there are several others that may be more appropriate based on the individual circumstances.
Yet, the one thing I’d recommend for everyone: KICK VISINE AND CLEAR EYES TO THE CURB! Drops labeled “gets the red out” are typically constricting the blood vessels on the surface of your eye and creating the risk for more symptoms over the long term.
Often, over-the-counter tear drops may not alleviate all your symptoms. This is where prescription eye drops earn their keep. The type and dosing of these prescription drops will depend on the symptoms and findings, but they are often very effective in controlling the ocular dryness and/or stimulating extra tear production. Yet another option is Punctal Occlusion, whereby the drainage ducts of the eye are temporarily occluded to prevent your tears from leaving the surface of the eye. This is also quite effective in getting your eyes away from feeling the ‘winter blues.’
As always, I’d love to hear from you with any questions or comments. Take care.