Four Easy Ways to Protect Your Eyes During the Winter
It’s obvious how harsh Michigan winters can take a toll on your body – rough hands and feet, chapped lips and flaky skin are all side effects of the dry, freezing air that takes hold this time of year. But you might not realize that winter can also wreak havoc on your eyes.
When you’re out in the elements, cold, dry air evaporates the tear film that keeps the eyes clean and moistened, which can cause irritation, stinging or burning. And you won’t find much relief when you head inside, since the indoor environment is often dry (especially near heat sources like fireplaces or vents), worsening your symptoms. Additionally, winter sports like skiing and everyday cold-weather tasks like shoveling can cause debris like snow, ice or dirt to fly into your eyes.
That said, protecting your eyes during the cold winter months is actually pretty simple to do. Just follow these four steps:
- Keep your sunglasses handy. No, your shades aren’t just for summer. Even on days that are cloudy or have minimal sunlight, high energy UV rays can penetrate through clouds. And if there’s snow on the ground, the UV rays can bounce off of the white snow and reflect into your eyes, causing vision issues like glare (commonly known as “fuzzy eye”). The UV damage could also potentially lead to more serious issues like cataracts or macular degeneration. Make sure your sunglasses have 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B blockage to protect your eyes completely.
- Wear goggles. Are you a winter sports enthusiast? Make sure you wear UV-blocking goggles while taking part in activities like skiing or snowboarding to avoid being blinded by the sun. The goggles also protect your eyes from flying ice and snow particles.
- Invest in a humidifier and air filter. Humidifiers are helpful to keeping your skin and eyes moisturized while indoors. This can help you avoid rubbing your dry eyes, which can further damage the outermost layer of the eye. (If you do experience dry eye, use moisturizing eye drops in them, such as artificial tears, instead of rubbing them.)
- Eat nutritiously. Cold weather calls for comfort food, but eating nutritiously can be key to keeping your eyes (and the rest of your body) healthy all year long. A good rule of thumb is to take a multivitamin every day and have a diet rich in antioxidants (including fruits and green, leafy vegetables like kale and spinach) and beta-carotene (found in carrots).
Learn more about what you can do to promote personal eye health by visiting these blogs from this site as well as MIBluesPerspectives.com:
- 5 Questions for Your Ophthalmologist
- Visiting the Eye Doctor Regularly, Even if You Have 20/20 Vision
- Simple Recipes That Can Delay Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Photo credit: Sam DeLong
About the author: SriniVas R. Sadda, MD is the president and chief scientific officer of Doheny Eye Institute in Los Angeles.