Winter eyecare

By William Graves

The fast-approaching winter months present unique challenges for our eyes, and the seasonal weather and lifestyle may affect our vision and worsen existing eye conditions. We’ve outlined these challenges, and made some suggestions that are easy to implement and will help you to protect your eyes during the colder months.

Winter driving

Come November, the clocks have gone back and the days are short. By the time we’re traveling home from the events of the day, the sun is often already low in the sky, causing glare on potentially cold and frosty roads. Glare can hinder our visibility, and it’s a good idea to keep a pair of sunglasses in the car. Just remember to remove them once dusk arrives or if you enter a tunnel. Also, make sure that the windscreen is clean inside and out as this will help you to see clearly.

Once the sun has dipped below the horizon, it’s not glare but a lack of light that restricts our vision. Our pupils dilate to let in more light, but our vision can become blurred as a consequence. If you wear glasses, this may cause you to become more reliant on them – so make sure you have them handy for those evening road trips.

Winter entertainment

We’re less inclined to adventure outside during winter, and our activities are more confined. It’s common for people to spend more time reading and using screens at this time of year, and this can have a detrimental effect on our eyes. These activities require us to hold our focus for prolonged periods, and our eyes can become tired as a consequence. We also tend to blink less frequently, and this causes dryness. Try applying the 20:20:20 rule when reading or watching TV, spending 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes.

If you’re adventurous, a ski trip may be the height of winter excitement, but don’t neglect your eyes while you’re out enjoying yourself on the slopes. Snow and ice reflect both visible and UV light, and you’ll put yourself at risk of long term damage if you fail to protect your eyes. Remember to wear a pair of good quality sunglasses or goggles marked with the safety standard BS EN ISO 12312-1:2013 or a CE mark. This is particularly important in sunny conditions. In flat light, visibility may be poor, so be sure to select an appropriate colour sunglass or google lens to suit the conditions. Rose, yellow or blue lenses are typically best for low light.

Dry eyes

As we crank up the heating in our homes, the air within them becomes drier. The heat and lack of moisture tend to make our eyes dry, and this can cause irritation and discomfort. If you’re prone to dry eyes, you’re likely to notice a worsening of the condition in the winter months, and you may wish to consider using a humidifier and lowering the temperature in rooms where possible.

The fast-approaching winter months present unique challenges for our eyes.

As aforementioned, our wintertime activities may also further the dryness of our eyes, and it’s important to make a conscious effort to blink more frequently and take regular breaks from reading and using screens. If you’re still suffering, lubricating eye drops may be helpful, and your optometrist or pharmacist will be able to advise you further on the use of these.

Watery eyes

Your eyes produce tears to protect them for the environment, so it’s not uncommon for the cold weather and winter wind to cause your eyes to water more than normal. In the great outdoors, colder air usually means dryer air, and the lack of humidity makes your eyes produce more tears. Glasses are your best defense, creating a barrier against the harsh winter conditions. But interesting, and if you’re still struggling, try dropping a few wetting eye drops into your eyes before venturing outside. They might just prevent the biological tear response going into overdrive.

Falls and the elderly

The slippery, frozen ground in the dark of winter poses an injury risk for even the most agile of us, and the elderly are in particular danger of falling in these conditions. It’s important not to underestimate the role of sight in spotting icy patches and maintaining our balance on slippery surfaces. If you wear glasses to improve your distance vision, make sure you’re wearing them when walking outside and if you’re unsteady on your feet, consider consulting your optician or optometrist for further advice.

You can find further information about winter eye care via the website of The College of Optometrists: lookafteryoureyes.org

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