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Well it’s that time of year. The days are getting shorter and a little bit chillier. Winter is definitely on its way.
Dry eyes are a common complaint for contact lens wearers particularly during the colder winter months. When it’s cold outside but warm inside, the change of temperature can cause tears to evaporate sooner than usual, causing irritation, dryness and pain to the eye. During the winter season, the eye is unable to produce tears quickly enough resulting in more frequent dry eye symptoms. You may even find that you have watery eyes as your body tries to compensate for the lack of tear production. Unfortunately, these tears which are called ‘reflex tears’ but don’t actually improve the situation as they don’t contain the right component to keep eyes hydrated.
All is not lost though, there are things that you can do to alleviate and reduce dry eyes in winter.
Contact Lens Care
Tears in your eyes work to clean your eye surface and protect you from infection. During the colder months when your eyes are dryer, your eye health is at a higher risk of infection. Ensure that you are diligent when handling and cleaning your contact lenses. Read our article on Caring for your Contact Lenses for detailed instructions on how to handle and clean your contact lenses.
Contact Lens Replacement
Ensure that you are replacing your contact lenses according to your contact lens schedule whether it is daily, fortnightly or monthly. By swapping our your lenses on time, they are better able to conduct oxygen, reduce irritation and increase comfort.
Contact Lens Options
There is a wide range of options when it comes to contact lenses. Your optometrist will be able to work with you and may prescribe contact lenses that you dispose of more frequently or contact lenses that are specifically designed for dry eyes.
There are eye drops or artificial tears specifically designed for use with contact lenses. These will help to re-wet your eyes and stop that dry and gritty feeling. It is important that you use eye drops that are suitable for use with contact lenses such as the AMO brand that we stock.
Reduce your contact lens wear
The cold weather will dry out your eyes, but with contact lenses, your eyes will dry out even more. Consider wearing your spectacles more and wearing your contact lenses for shorter periods of time. For example, take them out once you get home from work and put your glasses on. Those few extra hours will make a difference.
Studies have shown dry eye syndrome to be linked to Omega 3 deficiency. Omega 3 is an essential fatty acid which helps to support the cardiovascular, reproductive, immune and nervous systems. Omega 3 is also important for proper visual development and retinal function. The best natural sources of Omega 3 are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, but if you don’t eat fish or are unable to eat fish regularly, there are plenty of good supplements available.
It sounds simple enough but most people aren’t blinking as often as they should. When we use digital devices, the rate at which we blink is dramatically reduced because we are focused on one object for a long period of time. Be conscious that you need to blink. Look away from your computer, tablet or phone frequently and try not to spend prolonged periods of time on your digital device.
Indoor heating will draw moisture out of the air creating a dry environment for your eyes. A humidifier in your home or office can help to maintain the right amount of moisture in the air, allowing your eyes to stay moist.
We tend to drink less water in the cooler months but its important to keep up your water intake. Studies have shown that drinking water can significantly reduce dry eye symptoms.
Wear your sunglasses
Even though its cold, we are fortunate here in Australia to still have sunny days in winter (some states more than others). Wearing sunglasses in winter is still important. Sunglasses will provide UV protection as well as prevent cold wind, dust and grit from getting into your eye. Sunglasses are available in many different tints, so you may wish to use a pair with a lighter tint or a transition lens, both which will still offer full UV protection.
Getting a good nights sleep is also important for alleviating dry eye. As you focus on things throughout the day, your eyes will get tired just like the rest of your body so ensuring that you get the right amount of sleep will keep your eyes feeling healthy and refreshed.
So whilst the cold weather can increase dry eye symptoms and make wearing contact lenses uncomfortable, there are plenty of things that you can do to prevent dry eye. Should you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, make sure you book in to see your optometrist.