Do dry eyes and skin plague you in the wintertime? It may be cold and wet outside, but for your eyes and skin, winter often feels like a walk in the desert.
The combination of cold winter winds outside and dry heat inside is particularly irritating to the eyes. They can become painfully dry and itchy in wintery conditions and will sometimes become watery as a way to compensate for the dryness. You might even feel like there’s something in your eye that you can’t get out.
Eye doctors often recommend artificial tears and using a humidifier in dry air to combat winter dry eyes. But you may find that winter is not the only time you experience eye dryness. Sometimes, winter weather just exacerbates an existing dry eye condition.
Lesser Known Causes of Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome is a very common condition that experts estimate affects millions of adults in the U.S. It occurs when your tear glands don’t produce adequate tears. Besides causing an annoying scratchy sensation, dry eye can lead to blurry vision and even eye infections so it’s not something you want to ignore. To prevent vision damage, it’s important to treat and address underlying causes of your dry eyes.
Beyond windy and dry environments, a variety of factors can contribute to your dry eyes that you may not realize. These underlying causes include:
1. Too much screen time. Studies have found that people blink about 50 percent less often when staring at screens. Less blinking leads to dry eyes because it prevents a sufficient amount of tears from being spread over your eyes to keep them moisturized.
When working at your computer or spending a lot of time looking at your smartphone or tablet, you should take regular breaks to rest your eyes and prevent eyestrain and irritation. Think consciously about blinking and follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds or longer.
You can also combat the effects of screen time by using an eyestrain-reducing lamp. Designed with ClearSun LED technology that is closer to natural daylight than any other light source, the Wellness Series from OttLite features natural light desk lamps that are proven to reduce eyestrain by up to 51 percent. So, even if you can’t cut down on screen time, you can use screens more responsibly by protecting your eyes with healthy light.
2. Your age and gender. Dry eye syndrome is more common in people over 50 and in women. Older women are particularly prone dry eyes because the hormonal changes after menopause often lead to decreased tear production. Hormonal changes during pregnancy are also linked to dry eyes.
3. Your allergy medicine. You would probably expect dry eyes to be a common symptom of seasonal allergies. What you might not suspect is that the medicine you’re taking to relieve your allergy symptoms could actually be causing or worsening your eye irritation. Antihistamines like Zyrtec, Claritin and Benadryl can cause your eyes to make fewer tears. If you suffer from both seasonal allergies and dry eyes, talk to your doctor about non-drying allergy medications.
4. Your makeup. You may love your eye makeup but your eyes prefer a natural look. Eye makeup particles can get in your eyes and thin your tear film causing tears to evaporate faster. If you can’t live without it, make sure to remove eye makeup well every night. To keep irritating makeup particles out of your eyes, avoid using old mascara that crumbles when it dries and chose cream-based eye shadows and foundations over powder and liquid-based products.
5. Your diet. A health study from Harvard Medical School suggests that dry eyes can be tied to a diet low in omega-3 fatty acids and high in omega-6 fats. This dietary imbalance is common among Americans. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish like salmon and omega-6 fatty acids come from sources like margarine, soybean oil and corn oil used in many processed foods.
Getting more omega-3s in your diet has many health benefits and could also improve your tear quality. Omega-3s are known to protect your eyes and help soothe eye inflammation as well. If you’re not a fan of fish, you can also get some omega-3 benefits from nuts like walnuts and nutritious seeds like flaxseed and chia, or from an omega-3 supplement.
Whether it stems from winter air, screen time or your diet, dry eye syndrome is an irritating condition. Fortunately, paying attention to eye care, reducing eyestrain and getting your omega-3s are all simple steps you can take to help prevent dry eyes and see healthier.
For more ways to see and feel healthier all year long, visit seehealthier.com. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest for regular reminders and tips to help you live and see healthier.
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