Why Your Dry Eye Symptoms Worsen in Winter

dry eyes Boston, MA

Dry eye disease can impact several areas of your life, from your ability to work on the computer to enjoying a morning run outdoors. The winter months bring on even more challenges for people who struggle with the burning, itching and aching sensations of dry eyes. Boston Eye Physicians and Surgeons can help relieve your symptoms through dry eye treatment. 

Dry Eye Disease and Winter

When the temperature drops, so does the humidity. That lack of moisture can be a trigger for dry eyes. The cold sends people indoors to heated, even drier spaces that worsen or bring on dry eye symptoms such as itchiness and watery eye. These warm conditions and poor moisture cause the tear film to evaporate from your eye’s surface faster than usual. If you wear contact lenses, you’re more likely to experience dry eye symptoms in winter. 

What Is Dry Eye Disease?

Dry eye disease is caused by poor tear quality or quantity due to fast evaporation, insufficient tear consistency or insufficient production of tears. These problems can be a complication of LASIK or caused by medications, medical conditions and lifestyle or environmental factors such as smoking or living in a dry, arid climate. Eyelid inflammation (blepharitis) may cause dry eyes as well. People over 50 are more at risk of experiencing dry eye symptoms. 

When you blink, your tears are supposed to spread evenly over the eye for a healthy, smooth and clear surface. The most common cause of dry eyes is meibomian gland dysfunction that affects the composition of your tears, causing fast evaporation. The meibomian glands are found in your upper and lower eyelids and secrete oil when you blink, which mixes with the aqueous (water) and mucus tear layers. When these glands are blocked or clogged, it throws your tear quality off balance and leads to dry eye disease. 

Dry Eye Disease Treatments and Tips for Winter Months

After analyzing your tear film, Boston Eye Physicians and Surgeons will customize your dry eye treatment. In some cases, thoroughly soaking and scrubbing the eyelids may remove debris or Demodex mites (another cause of dry eyes) and clear the meibomian glands. Artificial tears, ointments and prescription eye drops may increase tear production, and we also offer punctal plugs to prevent tears from draining. In severe cases, surgery can close the tear ducts permanently to keep tears on the eye’s surface.

Wintertime is when people with dry eye disease may experience the worst symptoms, and these tips may help:

  • Use a humidifier in your home and office to add moisture to the air.
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which helps maintain moisture in the eyes.
  • Avoid excessive drinking, which further dries out the eyes.
  • Direct air vents away from your face to prevent drying the eye’s surface with heat.
  • Wear your contact lenses appropriately and care for them properly.

Learn More About Dry Eye Treatments in Boston

If dry eye disease affects your everyday life, contact Boston Eye Physicians and Surgeons to schedule your eye exam and discuss treatment options.