Look after your eyes this winter

The winter weather can take its toll on many parts of the body. And with the climate changing and ever more extreme weather coming our way, this is only going to become truer.

For instance, your mood can dip, thanks to the shorter days and the lack of Vitamin D.

You burn more calories from doing less. And if it’s really cold, your fingers may even “shrink” as your blood vessels constrict and more blood gets sent away from your extremities and to your vital organs.

Your skin can become dry, red, and irritated, as it is stripped of moisture by the elements outside and the indoor heating inside.

A particular area that is affected, though, is your eyes. Whether it’s snow, wind, heating, or the winter sun, your eyes and vision are typically more vulnerable to damage during the colder months than any other time of year.

For this reason, it pays to know what you can do to protect them and prolong your years enjoying clear, healthy vision. Especially if you already suffer from an eye condition, take certain medications, wear contacts, or otherwise have eyes that are especially sensitive.

Learning how to care for your eyes during winter will help keep them fresh and comfortable all year round. Here are several ways the winter can affect your precious peepers and vision along with tips for prevention and care.

The glare of the winter sun

If you live in a seasonal climate, most of the year ultraviolet rays from the sun only reach your eyes from above. But as snow and ice are reflective, in the winter, they can bounce off the ground and hit you from all angles.

Because UV exposure is cumulative, this is extra risky for your eyes. Even if the sun isn’t strong and you don’t feel any immediate effects, you can still be putting your eyes at the risk of long term damage.

To protect against winter UV damage, it’s best to wear eyewear such as protective sunglasses or goggles that comply with the safety standard BS EN ISO 12312-1-2013. This is especially important when out in snow and skiing, but is not just advice that should stay on the slopes.

Wearing the correct UV protective eyewear will help safeguard your vision, and particularly protect the retina by redicing your risk of developing conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts.

Being on the road in winter

Being on the road in conditions of low light or at night can be risky for drivers with poor and great vision alike.

With the long dark nights and slippy surfaces, it’s easy to see why the number of accidents always increases significantly when the cold creeps in.

A particular problem is when ice forms on roads and the glare of the low-lying sun bounces of it and reflects through the windscreen. If you’re driving, you should make sure before every journey your windscreen is clean both inside and out.

On top of this, when driving in the dark, your pupils will be larger than in the daylight. This allows your eyes to take in more light, but it also means your depth of field decreases. To help manage this, it’s good to be aware of risky conditions and how they may affect you before setting out on the road, and better yet to bring someone along with you when it’s not so pleasant out.

Overall, though, the best thing you can do is go for an eye test if you are due. Other good advice is to always have a pair of sunglasses (not darkened) in the car to help with the glare of the sun.

Developing drier eyes

Anyone who has dry eyes knows how the sun, wind, indoor heating, air conditioning, and pretty much everything can seem to make your eyes drier and uncomfortable.

In winter, the cold and extreme weather conditions can bring in another set of factors to deal with. What’s more, dry eyes can have many causes, and so the treatment can likewise be as varied. There are, however, a few things everyone can do to help manage them.

First things first, you can control the environment, for instance, by lowering the temperature of the room when possible. As using a screen or a computer can make dry eyes worse, you can limit their use and consciously blink more often. Finally, you can use a humidifier at home and work, or likewise, open some windows for a few minutes on cold days.

Time spent indoors

Following on from the last point, avoiding spending too much time looking at a screen and using a computer can be tricky in winter as we tend to increase the amount of time we spend indoors.

Being aware of this is often enough to help you remember to take breaks regularly. A great way to do this is with the 20:20:20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take at least a 20-second break and focus your vision on something at least 20 feet away.

Winter lighting

Lower levels of light in winter can put more strain on your eyes and make reading and doing up-close tasks more difficult. This is especially true for those with existing vision problems and older people.

The obvious solution of bringing in some extra light can really help take the strain off your eyes. Lighting for up-close activities should be close as well as flexible so you can direct it to where you need it most.

Watery eyes

In contrast to drier eyes, in cold and windy conditions many people also experience their eyes watering much more than usual.

As make-do shields, glasses can help protect your eyes against the wind, along with any pollution or micro-debris it may be carrying which can further irritate your eye. If it’s a regular problem for you, you may want to visit an ophthalmologist and find out what is your suitability for a treatment such as LASIK.

Find out more ways you can look after your eyes this winter with our guide to good eye health. If you want to improve your eye health and your vision, contact us to find out more about how Laser Eye Surgery can help you.