Winter brings colder temperatures to many. This can mean activities in the snow, enjoying the sun’s warmth when days are bright, or a little bit of frustration when shoveling that snowbank in your driveway. No matter how you feel about winter, there are a few things you should know about your winter eye health — especially as you age. We’ll go over a few of the most common winter eye health concerns and what you can do to help keep your vision clear and healthy.
Eye health in winter is always important — and it is especially important over age 50. Younger eyes might have seemed invincible, but as our bodies change, how we take care of our vision in the conditions of winter must change. Concerns like dry eyes, snow glare and even freezing wind chills all can be prevented with just a little bit of knowledge. Let’s begin!
The most common winter vision concerns start with dry air. In winter months, air tends to be drier, both outside and indoors, where we spend most of our time. This is why January seems like the “best” month for receiving static electricity sparks after walking across the room and touching a metal surface. Ouch! That dry air affects your eyes, too, making them feel a little itchy and tired. Outdoors, make sure you’re wearing wraparound sunglasses to keep harsh winds out of your eyes.
Indoors, there are a few ways you can help ease symptoms of dry air while protecting your eye health overall:
- Air humidifiers
- Drink enough water to keep hydrated
- Consider reducing your heater’s temperature — high use of your home’s heat can dry the air out even more
- Warm washcloth — fold and place over your eyes to soothe and create moisture for dry eyes
- Add foods with omega-3 fatty acids to your diet — they are linked to reduction of dry eye
It’s easy in summer months to bring out our favorite sunglasses as we take walks, garden, play, or bask at the beach. But in winter the shades are easy to forget. Even with fewer daylight hours in winter as in summer, winter sun can still lead to eye damage.
First, wear sunglasses. On sunny winter days the beams of the sun take a lower path across the sky, which means more possibility of direct sun on your retinas, even with a brimmed hat. Use UV-blocking sunglasses when you are outside, preferably those that wrap around your face to keep all of the stray beams out of those lovely peepers. You’ll even help to prevent sunburn of your retinas (yes, that’s a thing — and it is no fun).
Into skiing? Snowboarding? Hikes or walks in the snow? It’s a great idea to switch to even darker mountaineering-style shades if you will be spending time on snow. The glare from a snowbank can be even more intense than spending time on water. It can even cause snow blindness, especially in frigid temperatures or high winds. If you spend time in high-glare conditions, use sunglasses that are up to the task.
No matter the season, annual eye exams can help you stay on top of your vision health. It also gives you the chance to ask your optometrist questions about symptoms you have, such as dry and itchy eyes or blurriness after you’ve been on the ski slope all day. Your exam can also catch any potential long-term and serious eye problems early.
Winter eye problems are usually manageable or even preventable. Be ready for the season with healthy know-how from tips like these. Here’s to your eye health — in winter and in spring, in summer and in fall.
Vision insurance benefits can help your eyes stay healthy year-round. How? By providing you with access to annual eye exams, plus preventative care to help avoid long-term or seasonal issues. Benefits vary, so check out which VSP Individual Vision Insurance plans are available to you in your area.
Information received through VSP Vision Care channels is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice, medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your eye doctor, physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.