5 Common Winter Eye Problems

Maybe you have a love-hate relationship with winter. Understandable. But don’t let it affect your vision too. Be on the lookout for these five common eye conditions this winter and who knows, maybe you’ll see the season with completely new eyes. 

1. Dry eye and general irritation

You probably already know that cold winter air is typically drier than the air during warmer seasons, but don’t overlook how this dryness might be impacting your eyes. Adding insult to injury, is the dryness of the air we heat indoors in an attempt to keep ourselves warm. Thankfully, protecting your eyes from both is easy: drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, make omega 3 oils (e.g. fish and nuts) a part of your diet, and use a humidifier in your bedroom while you sleep. 

Dry cold air and blistering winds might also inflame the areas in and around your eyes. Relieve the tenderness by applying a cold, wet cloth or towel to the affected area. If this doesn’t help, then a seasonal allergy may be responsible for the irritation. or visit your eye doctor for consultation. 

2. Excessive tearing

Winter conditions sometimes have the opposite effect of dry eye—watery eyes and excessive tear production. To compensate for the drying effect of cold air and wind, your eyes will sometimes overproduce tears to protect themselves and maintain the proper moisture level. But if this causes discomfort or difficulty seeing while you are outside, then try wearing protective glasses or goggles to prevent exposure to the elements. 

If you find that your eyes are watering up when you are indoors, then again, you may have a seasonal allergy and its best to speak with your eye doctor about your symptoms. 

3. Sensitivity to light

While many days during winter are filled with thick cloud cover and darkness, snow and ice covered areas reflect a lot more light than you might expect. This brightness leads to light sensitivities for many people. If your eyes experience discomfort, twitching, or you find yourself blinking more often, then protect your eyes with polarized, UV-graded sunglasses. 

4. Sunburn

Believe it or not, it’s also possible to receive a sunburn on your eyes. Reflected sunlight from snow and ice increases your chances of getting a sunburn on non-protected areas of your body. If your eyes experience an increase in light sensitivity, irritation, or pain following an extended period outside, especially at higher elevations, then you may have a sunburn. See your eye doctor for treatment of symptoms and to prevent long term damage. Cumulative UV damage to your eyes can cause vision loss and macular degeneration, so be sure to always wear protective goggles and glasses, especially during winter sports. 

5. Vision changes and snow blindness

Depending on where you live, temperatures may drop well below freezing during the winter months. Extreme temperatures constrict blood flow to many parts of the body to conserve heat for the most vital organs, and sometimes your eyes may also be affected. When blood flow to your eyes is restricted, it’s possible to experience immediate vision changes like light sensitivity, double vision, and vision loss. Move to a warmer area indoors to increase blood flow and if your vision doesn’t return to normal within thirty minutes, then seek medical help immediately. 

Of course, winter can be a drag if you focus on the bitter cold, shorter days, and piles of snow blocking your driveway, but it always depends on how you look at things. Now that your eyes are seeing their best, get back to enjoying winter the way it’s supposed to be enjoyed, with snowball fights, hot chocolate, indoor family time and a book by the fire.

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