Winter weather and be hazardous to your eyes. While people automatically take steps to protect their bodies as soon as the weather gets cold, few take any action to protect their eyes. Cold weather can lead to dry eyes, excessive tearing, and red, swollen and burning eyes. Freezing temperatures can cause blood vessels in the eyes to constrict or the cornea to freeze.

There’s also the danger of Photokeratitis, or sunburn on your eye—even on overcast days. Left untreated, these conditions can lead to eye pain, infection, blurry vision, double vision, compromised visual clarity, and serious, permanent damage to the eye.

Dry Eyes

Cold, windy winter weather can dry out the moisture in our eyes. It also makes people close the windows in their homes and offices and turn up the heat. This leads to lower levels of humidity and contributes to the drying of the eyes. In extreme winter conditions, it can be difficult for the eyes to produce enough tears and moisture to remain comfortable.

Excessive Tearing

Cold winter winds can irritate some people’s eyes and cause them to produce an excessive amount of tears. This can cause blurry vision, trap germs, increase irritation, and lead to infections.

Red, Swollen Eyes

Cold weather can cause the blood vessels in tissue around the eyes to constrict. This can cause the eyelids to spasm and the eyes to become red and swollen.

Burning Eyes

Trying to see your way in blustery winter weather where there is blowing snow and ice, strong winds and low temperatures, the cornea can freeze and the eyes become overly sensitive to light. This can lead the cornea to develop and people to experience a burning sensation in their eyes.

Photokeratitis

This very painful type of sunburn to the eye often happens in the winter. Then UV rays can be more prevalent when sunlight is reflected off the snow and ice and into the eyes. The condition is commonly referred to as “snow blindness.”

Possible Solutions for Cold-Weather Eye Problems

When winter weather gets cold and windy, wear UV-blocking glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from strong wind gusts, glare and freezing temperatures. This is especially important if you are outdoors for long periods of time walking, skiing, or playing other winter sports even on overcast days.

  • Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air at home and at work.
  • Increase your intake of fluids and omega-3 fatty acids to help stimulate tear production.
  • Carry around eye drops and use whenever your eyes itch (rubbing could make it worse).

To protect your eyes from serious, debilitating, long-term damage, it is essential that you contact an eye doctor immediately should you begin experiencing pain, redness, swelling or a burning sensation in your eyes during the winter.

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