Posted by on Dec 31, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Winter-FunCalling all snowboarders, skiers, ice skaters, and anyone else in love with the winter season!  Before you hit the slopes or the rink, take a quick look at our tips on caring for your eyes in cold and dry weather. In terms of health, most of us have prepared for flu season. But many of us forget how important eye care is during the long cold months. Most believe the only time for eye protection is during the spring and summer months when the sun is at its most intense.

The first major risk to eyes is the sun’s ultra violet rays, which are just as damaging during winter. Those residing in the snowy North Georgia mountains may suffer from eye damage when UV rays from a bright blue sky reflect right off the snow. This can cause sunlight eye disorders such as cataracts or Photokeratitis. Photokeratitis is comparable to sunburn, only on the sensitive tissue of the eyeball.

 The second major risk to eyes is severe winds and dry weather that come with winter. Being exposed to cold weather causes the sudden onset of moisture evaporation inside the eyes. Tear glands, which are there to keep the eyes hydrated, cannot produce enough liquid coating to protect the eyes. This results in: itchy, dry eyes, pain, blurred vision, burning sensations, and watery vision as eyes try to compensate for the dryness. Symptoms most of us don’t want to be feeling when skiing down the slopes!

Luckily, there are several precautionary steps to take to ensure excellent eye health in winter. Let’s begin with tips to protect eyes against the sun.

  1. Wrap around sunglasses are best. Yes, even during the winter months, you should wear sunglasses that block 99-100% UV rays. This is especially important when there’s snow on the ground, as the light rays can reflect off the snow and into your eyes.

  2. Dress properly. Wear a protective brimmed hat and a hooded jacket or coat.

  3. If winter sports are your forte, wear protective sports goggles with 99-100% UV protection. Purchase goggles that have been fitted and have polycarbonate lenses.

Keeping our eyes hydrated and healthy seems to be the most difficult during the winter. Beyond using artificial tears (eye drops), there are several ways to avoid itchy, dry eyes.

  1. Moisture is key. Get a humidifier for your home. Replacing dryness with moisture in your house helps keep eyes hydrated.

  2. Enjoy tasty soup. During the winter, the body’s natural response is to not drink as much. Dehydration can negatively affect the watery component in the eyes, so stay hydrated with water and fluid-rich foods such as: soup, fruits and vegetables.

  3. Eat some fish. Consuming Omega-3 acids helps ease inflammation in your eyes. So grill up some tuna or salmon, eat a shrimp salad, or take a fish oil supplement. It will increase the amount of tears in your tear duct glands.

  4. Warm your feet in the car. No one likes getting into a cold car. However, did you know that turning on the car heater full blast is like applying a hairdryer straight to your eyeball? Warm your car by directing heat to your feet instead of your face. The car will heat up sufficiently, and your eyes won’t dry out with the sudden heat blast.

Aside from sun, wind, and cold, there are a few more essential housekeeping rules about winter eye care.

  1. For everyone: Get a comprehensive eye exam! Annual eye exams are vital to good eyes and vision health.

  2. For the kiddos:  Toys for children need to be age appropriate and safe with no flying pieces or sharp objects.

  3. For the ladies: Never share make-up. Viruses like pink eye are common, and the spread of germs is high, especially at this time of year.

  4. For contact lens wearers: Contact lenses soak up moisture in the eyes. Use drops recommended by eye care professionals if you feel your lenses drying up.

Enjoy your New Year’s Day celebrations, and keep your eyes healthy throughout the rest of 2014!