During the summer months, people often remember to protect their eyes in the bright sunlight of the long days; however, taking proper care of one’s eyes is just as important in the winter months. Keep the following tips in mind as you bundle up:
1. Protect yourself against ultraviolet radiation. UV rays can result in cataracts, snow blindness and growths on the ocular surface. The effect of the UV radiation from the sun is intensified once reflected off snow, or for those of us on the coast, water and sand. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people be especially careful to protect their eyes by using goggles or sunglasses with UV protection while outdoors.
2.Regulate temperature and humidity. Dryness of the air is of particular concern during the colder months, when heaters and radiators are in use. Heating systems result in loss of moisture in the air, which can in turn lead to dry eyes as natural tears evaporate off the surface of the eye. This can lead to tearing, blurred vision, eye pain, itching or redness. These symptoms can be relieved with the use of humidifiers and artificial tears.
3.Wear protective eyewear. For those enjoying winter sports, a pair of goggles is essential to protect the eyes from not only trauma but also high-speed winds, snow and ice.
4.Take breaks while using electronics. During the summer months, many people spend evenings outdoors; however, during the early winter evenings when it gets darker earlier, people spend more time indoors in front of screens and electronic devices. While some studies raised concerns about the electronics’ blue light causing damage to the eyes, subsequent research has not substantiated these claims. Extensive screen time does, however, result in less blinking and subsequent dry eye. Use of artificial tears and taking breaks every hour by using the 20-20-20 rule can be helpful. That is, take a 20-second break by looking at something 20 feet away, every 20 minutes.
5.Consider using glasses instead of contact lenses. Many contact lens wearers have preexisting dry eye and this can worsen during winter months. Ensuring frequent lubrication and use of a humidifier can help; however, some people may benefit from limiting the number of hours per day or the number of days per week they use contact lenses.
6.Avoid certain medications. When purchasing artificial tears, be sure to avoid medications promising to ‘get the red out’ as they often contain an additional medication that causes delayed redness. Additionally, if using artificial tears more than four times per day, switch to one with a preservative-free formula.