Why Are My Eyes Dry in Winter?
Wintertime is upon us, and while we hope your days ahead are filled with frosty fun or cozy times with friends and family, the season also brings with it cold, dry air that can trigger effects from dry eyes. Dry eyes can be a major nuisance, popping up during your daily activities and preventing you from enjoying the things you love most. If you suffer from irritated, itchy, eyes with excessive tearing, redness, or a stinging or gritty sensation, then you may be experiencing dry eye syndrome.
Common Causes of Winter Dry Eyes
Occasional dry eye symptoms may occur in the winter due to:
- More screen time – More time spent indoors often leads to more time looking at a screen. Two hours or more spent looking at digital devices can lead to dry eyes.
- Less humidity – Keeping our homes and offices toasty warm often leads to drier air, especially with forced air heating systems.
- Dehydration – People tend to drink less water in the winter than they do in the summer months, which can lead to mild dehydration that can affect eye lubrication.
- Blinking Exercises
- Warm Compresses
- Staying Hydrated
- MiBoFlo ThermoFlo®
- Prescription eye drops
- Eyelid cleaners such as OcuSoft Hypochlor™ or Cliradex®
What about dry eye symptoms that are persistent even with the use of indoor humidifiers and proper hydration? While you may think dry eye is caused solely by the cold, dry air affecting the surface of your eyes, you may be surprised to find that many, if not most, cases of dry eye involve problems with the eyelids.
Conditions That Cause Chronic Dry Eyes
Your eyelids play an integral part in the formation of your tear film and the health of your ocular surface. All along the eyelids are a series of glands called meibomian glands. These important structures produce an oil called meibum that creates a sort of ‘cap’ on your tear layer, helping to prevent the tears from evaporating and therefore keeping the eye moist. In healthy eyelids, this oil is expressed and spread across the eye when you blink. However, various local and environmental factors may cause disruption to this essential eyelid function, leading to many of the problems we see in dry eye disease. Two conditions that are common culprits of chronic dry eye symptoms are:
Anterior blepharitis is a condition seen when bacteria, such as Staph aureus, and mites, known as Demodex, build up along the base of your eyelashes. Build up from these microscopic organisms can create a film along the eyelid, causing irritation and blocking the natural gland functions. It is important to decrease the presence of these overgrown microbes to eliminate this film and restore normal eyelid function.
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD)
Meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD, occurs when the meibomian glands do not properly express the critical oil onto the surface of the eye. These glands may lose function due to many factors, including inflammation, lack of blinking from excessive use of electronic screens, or from the biofilm described above. If you eye doctor detects MGD, they can recommend treatment options to improve the function of these glands.
Winter Dry Eye Solutions
Occasional dry eyes may be relieved with a few simple at-home solutions:
If you suffer from chronic dry eye symptoms that may be caused by Anterior blepharitis or MGD, an experienced dry eye specialist may recommend:
Using these treatments to improve the health and function of the eyelids can have a significant impact on the comfort and health of your eyes.
Dry Eye Treatment at Virginia Eye Consultants
Dr. Chris Kruthoff is an optometrist at Virginia Eye Consultants. Our practice is certified as an Accredited Dry Eye Center and our eye doctors have helped many patients find relief from dry eyes. Read our dry eye patient testimonials. Contact us with any questions about dry eyes or to schedule a dry eye examination.