Eye Center of Texas Blog

Itchy, Dry Eyes in Winter: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

Dealing with dry eyes in winter is enough to drag down anyone’s holiday spirit. While people in Houston may not have to contend with the dry air and winds of winter to the same extent that our northern brethren do, that doesn’t mean Houstonians don’t struggle with dry eyes in winter.

This being said, don’t allow dry eyes to take away time spent with family and friends this holiday season. Learn about what can agitate your dry eyes in winter, how to identify your symptoms, and how to treat your dry eyes.

Dry eyes in winter: The symptoms

The symptoms of dry eyes in winter (just like the symptoms of dry eyes in general) might be easy to ignore at first. However, ignoring your dry eyes and their symptoms can lead to dry eye syndrome or, in extreme cases, a scratched cornea. (You can find the answer to, “What are the symptoms of a scratched cornea?” on our blog.)

As the temperature drops, be on the lookout for the following symptoms:

  • Burning, irritated, dry, itchy eyes
  • Redness
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye fatigue
  • The sensation of having an object in your eye
  • Discomfort wearing contact lenses
  • The appearance of eye mucus

What causes dry eyes in winter?

When we think about dry eyes in winter, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the cold.

Does cold weather make your eyes dry? And if so, are your dry eyes worse in the winter than they are in other seasons?

The air during cold weather doesn’t contain as much moisture as warmer air. When the air is rid of moisture, the tears that keep the surface of your eyes moist are more likely to evaporate quickly. Winter winds can exacerbate these conditions.

But it’s not only the cold that can cause dry eyes in winter; heat may also be to blame. The fires and heaters we use to warm up our bodies can make the indoor air drier than outside. Even the powerful vents in your car’s heater can be especially bad for dry eyes in winter.

Alternate causes of dry eyes in winter (and other seasons)

Dry eyes in winter can be made worse by the same behaviors that cause chronic dry eye syndrome. The following actions will increase your susceptibility to dry eyes year round.

  • If you don’t wear proper eye protection, UV light eye damage can exacerbate the symptoms of dry eye. In the winter, the glare of sunlight on the snow can be especially problematic.
  • Do you overwear your contact lenses? Doing so increases the likelihood that you will suffer from dry eyes. However, some contact-related dry eye symptoms are unavoidable in certain circumstances, such as when you wear contacts after LASIK.
  • If you spend hours staring at a screen, chances are that you experience eye strain from cellphone and computer use. When we concentrate on these devices, we tend to blink less, which ultimately encourages the faster evaporation of your tears.
  • Certain autoimmune diseases, medications, age, and your gender can also affect your susceptibility to dry eyes.   

How do you prevent dry eyes in winter?

With the dry air, wind, and heaters, it can sometimes feel as if there’s no place to go to get respite from your dry eyes in winter. However, there are steps you can take to reduce your dry eye symptoms and find relief. Here are some of the top suggestions for how to prevent dry eyes in winter:

  • Keep your hands away from your eyes. Rubbing dry eyes will only worsen the problem.  
  • Use OTC eye drops to provide moisture to your eyes.
  • If your symptoms persist, visit your eye doctor and have him or her check on your dry eyes. Your doctor can help you find the best eye drops for your winter dry eyes. They can also recommend more extensive procedures, such as the insertion of punctal plugs (tear duct plugs).
  • Wear protective eyewear (especially if you participate in winter sports, such as skiing).
  • Replace your contact lenses regularly and/or invest in contacts for people with dry eyes.
  • Is a humidifier good for dry eyes? Yes. So if you don’t have one already, invest in a humidifier. A humidifier can help counteract the dry air inside your home by adding moisture back into the air.
  • Avoid positioning yourself in front of blowing hot air. Keep the car vents turned away from your face, and sit further away from the vents and fireplace in your home.
  • Put down the phone and turn off your computer. If you need to check these devices for work, then take regular blink breaks, and consider installing an app that reminds you to look away from your screen.

Make dry eyes a ghost of winters past

The holidays should be a time for family and friends, not dry eyes.

The sooner you address your dry eyes in winter, the sooner you’ll find relief, and the less likely your dry eyes will become a greater nuisance to you in the future. With experienced doctors and six convenient locations, Eye Center of Texas has everything you need to find relief from dry eyes. Guaranteed.

Call Eye Center of Texas at 713-797-1010, or request an appointment online today.

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6565 W. Loop S. Suite 650

Bellaire, TX 77401

Medical Office: 713-797-1010

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Webster, TX 77598

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Katy, TX 77450

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Conroe, TX 77304

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