How does the weather affect my eyes?

Tina Patel Tina Patel
Tuesday, 06 December 2022 Share this blog: Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Copy link Copy Link

The sudden drop in temperature that always comes at this time of year can impact your eyes. When freezing temperatures hit, you’re much more likely to catch a cold or the flu, which can lead to stinging or watery eyes. Winter weather can also be one of the reasons for swollen eyes due to the cold, dry air.

While you can layer up with knitwear, including hats, scarves and gloves, there's another part of your body that is more difficult to protect from the harsh weather conditions - your eyes. Your eyes are a delicate part of the body, so it’s not surprising that they can be sensitive to cold temperatures. Here are a few things to look out for and ways to minimise these uncomfortable symptoms:

Dry eyes in the winter

In extreme weather conditions such as strong winds, your eyes can lose their natural moisture and become dry. This will leave them feeling sore, and subsequently, lead to feelings of pain and discomfort.

Since you are more likely to keep the windows inside your home closed to shut out the cold weather and turn your heating on, the increased humidity levels can cause dry eyes.

To combat this, there are a few things you can do. Firstly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water; keeping your entire body hydrated will also boost the moisture levels in your eyes. Another way to combat dry eye is to increase your intake of omega-3 fish oil, which can help stimulate tear production. You can also buy a humidifier to keep moisture in the air inside your home, which hydrates the skin, hair and eyes.

Contact lenses such as Acuvue Oasys 1-Day with HydraLuxe have a moisturising effect on your eyes, helping to reduce and minimise the symptoms of dry eyes throughout the day. For increased moisture, consider silicone hydrogel contact lenses such as comfi Pure 1 Day daily disposable lenses, which offer exceptional clarity and all-day hydration.

You can also use hydrating eye drops such as Hycosan Extra or Thealoz Duo, these preservative-free eye drops will keep your eye hydrated.

Read our full guide on dealing with dry eyes or view our list of the best contact lenses for dry eyes.

trees and snow

Burning eyes

In very extreme weather conditions such as snow, you’ll find that it can be challenging to open your eyes fully. This can be due to the reflections of the sun on the snow, which can cause snow blindness if you’re not careful. You can prevent this by always wearing UVA and UVB protecting sunglasses in these environments. In places with extremely cold temperatures such as Alaska, attempting to force your eyes open can cause damage to the cornea which is highly painful and can lead to issues such as light sensitivity, blurry vision and eyelid spasms.

You may think that you only need to wear sunglasses in the summer, but in fact, UV light can penetrate cloud, so it’s important to wear sunglasses with UV protection all year round. Wearing sunglasses in winter can protect your eyes from harsh winds and bright light. Reflective rays are a potential issue during the winter due to snow and can contribute to eye health issues such as cataracts and snow blindness.

An eye cold

The cold weather makes us more susceptible to infection due to the lack of vitamin D, which helps to boost the immune system. We are more vulnerable to catching the common cold which can then lead to an eye cold, also known as viral conjunctivitis. This virus can affect one or both eyes. Don't be surprised if your eyes burn when closed. Cold in the eye can also lead to you experiencing itchy eyes and red veins in the eye.

Watery eyes in the cold weather

While some people experience dry eyes from strong winds and the cold weather, others suffer from excessive tearing, with their eyes becoming extremely watery. Cold air can cause your tears to evaporate quicker, leaving less moisture to keep your eyes hydrated.

How to stop eyes watering in cold weather

Watery eyes can be very frustrating, especially when the tears cause your vision to become blurry. To prevent excessive tearing, wear a pair of sunglasses to stop the wind from reaching your eyes. Make sure to wipe any tears away with a clean, soft cloth to avoid germs entering your eyes. Eyelid wipes such as Optase Tea Tree Oil Lid Wipes and Systane Lid Wipes will help clear your eyes and can conveniently fit into your bag, purse or pocket.

Can cold weather give me glaucoma?

Cold weather does influence intra-ocular pressure (IOP). Higher eye pressure can increase your risk of developing glaucoma. If this pressure within the eye is reduced, it can help to prevent vision loss from glaucoma. A study from The National Library of Medicine shows that IOP could be higher in the colder months and lower in warmer temperatures.

Why do my eyes feel heavy?

When the mornings are darker during the winter months, it's much harder to wake up and get out of bed. The lack of sunlight causes your brain to produce a hormone called melatonin, making you sleepy. It's no wonder we feel tired and sluggish during this season, and all this fatigue can make our eyes feel heavy.

Tips against tired eyes

You can prevent your eyes from feeling tired and heavy by following a good eye care routine and ensuring that you get enough good quality sleep. Using eye drops can refresh tired eyes, as does making sure we get enough sunlight during the day. It's also important to take breaks away from digital screens and eat enough fruits and vegetables every day.

woman wearing a hat in the snow

Red swollen eyes

Eyes can become red and swollen in cold weather. This is due to constricted blood vessels in the tissues around the eyes. Sore, swollen eyes can lead to blurry vision, excessive tearing and eyelid spasms.

There are also many reasons why your eyes could be swollen, including allergies, fluid retention, styes, pink eye (conjunctivitis) and periorbital cellulitis (an infection of the eyelid or skin around the eye). If you do experience swollen eyes, you should visit your optician or GP as there are a variety of eye conditions that could be affecting you.

How to reduce swollen eyes

Make sure you protect your eyes in cold and bright weather by wearing a pair of UV-protected sunglasses. You can also give your eyes a DIY spa-like treatment with the Thera-Pearl Eye Mask. The handy mask can be used either hot or cold, depending on your preference, and will help relieve tired, irritated and swollen eyes. For a hot eye treatment, Optase Moist Heat Eye Mask can soothe swollen eyes and help treat conditions such as dry eye.

You can also add oily fish to your diet few times a week (such as mackerel and salmon), this will help to keep your eyes moisturised. Eye drops are another way of reducing swollen eyes and maintaining the moisture levels in your eyes.

Don't forget to make regular visits to your optician for a general check-up on your eye health.

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