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Winter comes with its inconvenient set of health concerns: you're at higher risk for picking up bugs like the flu, you have to protect your skin from harsh winter temperatures, and just being outside or in the car can be dangerous. You may not think much about how winter affects your eyes, but you should. The extremes of winter and the dry heat that keeps everyone warm can adversely affect your eye health. Make sure you're taking the proper steps to protect your eyes this winter.


Whether you're inside or outside, winter air is a main culprit for giving you eye discomfort and irritation. Indoors, the dry heat that comes from your furnace will dry out your eyes, leaving them red and uncomfortable. Outside, cold winds and low temperatures also cause irritation. You may tear up, feel itchy, or experience redness. Sometimes dry eye makes it feel like debris is stuck in your eye. Lubricating drops are the best way to combat this irritation. Just make sure you apply them correctly and don't touch the dropper surface to anything, including your eye.


Not with your phone, but with your eyes. The more you scratch, rub, or touch your eyes, the worse they'll feel when they're irritated. Put in the lubricating drops if your eyes are dry, then hands off. Not only will you make the irritation worse, you might rub dirt or debris further into your eyes, scratching your sclera or even your cornea. This is doubly important if you wear contacts. Plus, winter is the time for all kinds of germs to hang around in the air and on surfaces. Rubbing your eyes increases the risk of introducing an infection.


winter eye healthImage via Flickr by Zach Dischner

Because of the Earth's tilt, the sun actually comes in at a harsher angle during the winter, which means you're definitely not safe from UV rays during the winter. Add to that the reflective property of snow and ice, and you end up with winter sun conditions that have the potential to be quite damaging to your eyes. Those same UV protection sunglasses you wear in summer should be part of your winter wardrobe, too. This is true even on cloudy days, since UV rays can penetrate clouds.


Winter air is notoriously dry, as is central heating. You need to drink lots of water during winter for your whole body's benefit. Along with dry eye, you may experience eye strain if you're dehydrated. You might experience blurry vision or headaches when your eyes are dry and strained. Along with drinking water, keep the air in your home moist with a humidifier. It helps your eyes, your skin, and your entire body stay hydrated during the winter. If you notice ongoing discomfort or other symptoms, head to the eye doctor to ensure nothing more serious is wrong. Your eye doctor, Dr. Bob Consor, is also a valuable resource for helping to protect your eyes during the winter months.

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