The minute the temps drop and the heaters turn on, your eyes feel like the Sahara. Once you’ve suffered through a few dry, winter seasons, you’re ready to take action to get relief for your parched eyes and find a more permanent solution than a bottle of artificial tears.
Stoggles understands the need for solutions for dehydrated, irritated eyes. The winter months can be especially problematic for people with eye sensitivity, but even if you don’t have sensitive eyes, seasonal dry eyes can happen and make you question whether you’ll ever see comfortably again.
Here’s the breakdown of what’s going on with your eyes, what it means, and how you can get relief and get back to regularly scheduled winter activities.
Let’s discuss eye health in the winter.
What’s Causing the Drought?
Your eyes were fine all summer long, but when winter ushered in cooler temps, you started having dryness, itchiness, and all manner of eye irritation. The reason is twofold; the weather itself and who we deal with it (aka artificial heat).
The frigid air does more than freeze your fingers and toes. Cold air is arid, has less humidity, and can sometimes pack a powerful wind along with it. If you’re outdoors in these conditions, your eyes will suffer.
Dry air naturally absorbs moisture from your eyeballs, making them feel irritated and uncomfortable. Cold wind can cause your eyes to feel dry and create excessive tearing. Unfortunately, the tears usually get swept away and are gone with the wind, too, leaving your eyes scratchy and dry once more.
The moment the temps begin to dip, we crank up the heat. Space heaters by our work stations, full blast heat to defrost the car windshield, and cranking up the heater in the house to keep warm are all hallmarks of the winter season.
Unfortunately, our heaters make our body temperatures comfortable but can make our eyes really dry and sensitive. Heat dries the air, removes moisture, and makes it more difficult to feel hydrated.
Your favorite ways of staying warm could be wreaking havoc on your eyes by stripping them of moisture. And that’s not cool. Literally.
Most of us don’t think about ultraviolet rays, sunlight, or warmth until at least May. In the winter, it seems like the risk of damaging UV rays is months away, but that isn’t true. Not only can you still get sunburned on your skin during the winter, but you can also develop a condition called snow blindness.
Snow blindness is a type of photokeratitis that happens when light reflected off of surfaces like snow and ice inflames and damages the cornea. You’ve probably experienced this if you’ve walked outside on a snowy day without your sunglasses.
The light reflects into your eyes, temporarily blinding you when you return indoors. Prolonged exposure to reflected UV rays can cause significant eye injury.
Symptoms of photokeratitis can be:
- Watering or excessive tearing
- Blurred vision
- Temporary vision loss
Photokeratitis usually goes away on its own in a few days, but if symptoms persist, you’ll need to see your eye doctor.
If your eyes begin to water and itch when pollen collects on your car, you’re no stranger to allergies. Eye allergens can be seasonal or perennial. That means you can experience eye-related allergies when seasonal plants bloom and pollinate or from allergens that are present year-round.
In the winter, you might get a break from seasonal allergies while plants lie dormant. However, perennial allergens like pet dander and mold can keep your eyes feeling dry, irritated, and sensitive.
Smoke from bonfires and fireplaces can also cause dry eyes and sensitivity that you don’t experience in warmer months.
Could It Be Dry Eye Syndrome?
Most of the time, you’ll only experience eye dryness for short periods of time. Even if you have dry eyes in the winter, your irritation is usually intermittent, not constant. If your symptoms are persisting for longer periods of time, you could be suffering from dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome is characterized by having dry, sensitive eyes that last longer than just a few days. Dry eye syndrome, also known as dry eye disease, can happen because of prolonged exposure to elements that cause your eyes to be dry (like cold weather, heaters, or UV rays).
Another cause of dry eye syndrome can be the inability to produce enough tears, or the inability to produce quality tears. Even if you do produce tears, certain medications, changes in diet, and even hormones can affect the way your tears are able to lubricate your eyes.
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome are similar to having period dry eyes, but you’ll also notice:
- Eye redness and increased soreness
- Mucusy discharge from the eyes
- Feeling like something is stuck in your eyes
- Increased vision difficulty, especially in dim lighting
- Eye fatigue and strain
- Watery eyes that don’t give you relief from dryness
If you suspect your dry eyes are more than just seasonal, or if your dry eyes constantly bother you all season long, you should see your eye doctor. If left untreated, dry eye syndrome can affect your vision.
Long Term Effects of Dry Eyes
You might think it’s just a little dryness, but over time, having eyes that aren’t properly lubricated can impact your eye health and even your vision.
Your eyes are at a higher risk of developing eye infections if they remain dry and irritated. Your tears help protect your eyes from pathogens and help move irritants out of your eyes. When you don’t produce enough tears, your risk of developing an eye infection increases.
Infections can be mild, like conjunctivitis, or can become more severe. It’s best to nip your dry eyes in the bud before they have a chance of causing infection.
The cornea is a round dome that covers your eye and allows light in and out through the pupil. Your cornea requires tears to keep hydrated and work properly. When your eyes are dry, your cornea can become inflamed. Inflamed corneas can lead to corneal abrasions and ulcers.
These issues are painful, take a long time to heal, and can even lead to vision loss if left untreated.
Your quality of life suffers when your eyes bother you. Repeatedly scratching, rubbing, and otherwise dealing with dry eyes can interfere with your day-to-day activities and make your life miserable.
If you wear contact lenses, it may be impossible to wear them if you have dry eyes. Additionally, dry eyes that lead to blurry vision can cause problems with reading, driving, and working.
Before you brave the winter weather on your own, check out these tips for keeping your eyes hydrated and comfortable.
Five Tips for Dry Winter Eyes
You know what’s causing the dryness; now learn how to tackle it. You don’t have to suffer from eye dryness when there are definitely at-home remedies available.
Follow these five tips, and you might be able to retire that bottle of artificial tears once and for all.
1. Get Sticky
Humidity might not be a friend to your hair, but it’s definitely a friend to your eyes. In the winter, your eyes suffer because of arid atmospheres both indoors and out.
Using a humidifier by your bed at night or even a small humidifier on your workspace can help add moisture to the air and help keep your eyes lubricated better. A humidifier helps compensate for the indoor heater — which is probably wreaking havoc on your eyeballs. You can find different sizes based on the space you have. To help balance the impact of indoor heating in a large room, you’ll want a larger humidifier with adjustable settings to help keep you comfortable and mitigate any dryness in your eyes.
You can also find small humidifiers that are designed for smaller spaces. Most humidifiers will have spec info that tells you how many square feet they are capable of keeping conditioned.
2. Limit Exposure
If you can pinpoint what dries your eyes the most, you can try to avoid it. For instance, if your eyes start to squeak in their sockets when you crank up your space heater, try only using it for short periods of time instead of keeping it going all day.
Do you get dry, itchy eyes when you snuggle next to a roaring fire? Sit a bit further away so that your eyes aren’t directly exposed to the heat and flame.
You can also use the 20:20:20 rule that applies to computer work. The rule states that when you’re focusing on a screen, it’s important to take a break after 20 minutes to focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. For dry eyes, limit your exposure to your known irritant to 20 minutes before taking a 20-second break to give your eyes a rest. This can help prevent your eyes from becoming gradually drier as your fireside chat continues.
3. Stay Hydrated and Eat Healthfully
Many of us unknowingly decrease our water intake during the winter. Generally, we sweat less and aren’t as hot, so we opt for a cup of hot coffee instead of pure water. If you decrease your fluids during winter, it could cause you to become dehydrated.
Make sure you drink at least four to six cups of water per day during winter to stay hydrated and ensure your eyes have enough fluid to produce tears. If you’re already drinking plenty of water and still experiencing dry eye conditions, you may need to try something else.
Eating a balanced diet is also important. If you aren’t eating the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients, you may still produce tears, but they could be low-quality tears that don’t keep your eyes properly moistened.
Eye care supplements may also give your eyes a boost. Most of them contain omega-3 fatty acids, which are important to eye health. Taking omega-3 supplements or simply getting a little more omega-3 from food sources can help support your eye health.
4. Decrease Screen Time
It might be hard, especially if you have a job that keeps you in front of a computer, but screen time increases the likelihood that your eyes will become dry. When we work in front of a screen, we blink less. Blinking is required to distribute tears onto the surface of your eyes.
While working in front of a screen, stick to that 20/20/20 rule. Every twenty minutes, look away from the screen and focus on something 20 feet away from you for at least twenty seconds. This will help keep your eyes lubricated and will also cut down on eye strain and fatigue.
It’s also a good idea to invest in some blue-light-blocking glasses, which we’ll talk about in just a moment.
5. Use a Warm Compress
When your eyes are particularly dry, a warm compress can alleviate the discomfort and increase blood flow to your eyes, which may help support the production of more natural tears.
To make one, run a washcloth under warm water (not hot) for several seconds until it is fully saturated. Fold it in half lengthwise two times and lay it over your eyes. You can leave the compress on for several minutes or until the compress cools.
6. Use Eye Drops
Many people operate under the false assumption that artificial tears are unsafe for your eyes. While they can cause allergic reactions in some people (usually from the preservatives), that’s very rare, and they won’t prevent your eyes from ever making tears on their own.
Over-the-counter lubricating eye drops can help with occasional dryness. The only drawback is that they could prevent you from seeking the care of an ophthalmologist if you need one. If you have a condition like chronic dry eye, you may need different treatment options — plus, some eye drops are thought to contain chemicals that may contribute to minor effects of glaucoma.
In addition, if you plan to have eye surgery (like LASIK), check with your eye doctor prior to using eye drops, because they can sometimes prevent your surgeon from being able to operate.
7. Get Goopy
Eye ointments are over-the-counter dry eye remedies that sound like something you’d never want to try. In reality, they aren’t nearly as goopy or sticky as they seem. Eye ointments are thicker than eye drops, and you generally apply them to the water line at your lower lash line. You’ll apply them just before bed, so that they don’t interfere with your vision.
These can sometimes be a good solution as they last longer than eye drops and aren’t subject to evaporation like eye drops or even your own tears. Just be wary of these types of products — not all of them are 100% safe. It’s always best to check with your eye doctor before using any over-the-counter eye drops or ointments.
8. Protect Your Eyes Outside
When you leave the house, grab proper eye protection, especially if you’re hitting the slopes or otherwise engaging in snow or ice-related activities. Keeping your eyes covered will reduce the amount of dry air and wind you’re exposed to, thus reducing the risk of developing dry eyes.
You’ll also protect your eyes by keeping them safe from UV rays if your glasses offer UV protection.
9. Protect Your Eyes Inside Too
Your eyes are getting hit with irritants both outside and inside. So protect them in both places. Eye protection while indoors looks like blue light blockers, and wearing protective eyewear if you’ll be around something particularly irritating, like a fire.
10. Get an Eye Exam
Your optometrist is the best person to determine whether your dry eyes are the result of seasonal changes or something else. If there’s an issue with your tear ducts, no amount of hydration or eye drops will help. Getting an eye exam can ensure your eyes are safe from a medical standpoint.
For the best in eye protection both indoors and outdoors, Stoggles are the solution.
Eye Protection for Winter Dry Eyes
Face it: the right accessory can fix virtually everything from a bad outfit to a bad mood. When the temps get cold and the heaters are full throttle, you’ve got to protect your eyes with the only safety glasses that are as fashionable as they are effective.
Stoggles keep your eyes protected from extreme temperatures, UV light, and even harmful blue light emitted from your computer screen and smartphone. All this, and they keep you looking incredibly stylish at the same time.
Here are three ways Stoggles protect your eyes from winter dryness.
1. Side and Top Shields
You might don your sunglasses when you leave for the day, but your sunnies leave you vulnerable at the tops of your eyes and across your temples. Air and wind can enter these areas and cause dryness.
Side and top shields prevent the cold from violating your eyes, making sure they stay in top shape even when it’s cold. These are a better solution than wraparound glasses or eyewear, which only can sometimes leave areas above and below exposed — because they are more curved, they can tend to sit fairly far from the face and are the most generic (hence, not the best option). Not to mention rocking that hyper masculine look… and maybe that's what you’re going for, in which case we aren’t judging. When it comes to prescription lenses, it’s close to impossible to add a lens with any strength or power, and will usually lead to the goggles over glasses look.
2. UV Protection
All Stoggles are made from polycarbonate, which is naturally UV blocking. That means no matter how many snow days you take to shred on the slopes, your eyes will be protected from dryness that can happen with photokeratitis.
If you have additional light sensitivity issues, you can always opt for our Sun Polarized Stoggles, which offer tinted lenses and polarization, or Stoggles Dimmers, which have photochromic lenses that automatically darken when exposed to UV light.
3. Blue Light Blocking
All work and no play makes your eyes really dry. Stoggles are coated with blue light blocking material to ensure the hours you spend in front of your computer aren’t harming your eyes by allowing in dangerous blue light.
Blue light can cause eye fatigue, strain, and dryness. This light may even potentially harm your vision after long periods of exposure. Blue light blocking lenses filter out blue light to keep your eyes safe.
If you need corrective lenses, that’s not a problem. Simply upload your script to our website, and we’ll take care of the rest — we even offer progressive lenses and reading glasses, so you can keep your eyes safe and comfortable no matter what you’re doing.
Fix Dry Winter Eyes With Stoggles
Winter is harsh, but you don’t have to suffer from eyes that are dry and uncomfortable. Proper eye protection can keep your eyes healthy and lubricated no matter how low the temps drop. Stoggles are the perfect solution for keeping your eyes healthy in every season.