Are your eyes dry, itchy, or irritated? Dry eyes are a prevalent condition, especially during the winter and in colder months.
When it gets cold out, the air is drier, and it can affect your sinuses and eyes. Having dry eyes can be temporary, but it can also be a chronic condition that gets worse when your environment is dry.
But no one wants to contend with any discomfort during the holidays, and eye irritation can be hard to work around, especially if you’re preparing Thanksgiving dinner! Luckily, you can keep your dry eyes under control with a few simple tips. Keep reading to learn how to get relief!
Why are Your Eyes Dry?
Getting dry eyes can be a result of several different factors. If you have chronically dry eyes, you may have a condition called dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye syndrome develops because you aren’t producing enough tears, or the tears you make are low in quality, meaning they are missing critical nutrients.
Dry eye syndrome is more common in women, especially those going through hormonal changes like pregnancy or menopause. But dry eye syndrome can affect anyone.
Usually, dry eyes are the result of having your tears evaporate too quickly. When this occurs, it can be due to your environment, but it may also be your meibomian glands.
Your tears are made up of three layers: mucus, water, and oil. Different parts of the eye produce these specific components.
One cause of dry eye syndrome that’s more common and challenging to identify is meibomian gland dysfunction. The meibomian gland is what produces oil and is part of the outer layer of your tears.
When there isn’t enough oil, your tears lack that protective outer layer and evaporate too quickly.
One of the main reasons people tend to develop dry, itchy eyes during the winter is being in a dry environment. Spending a lot of time outside when it’s cold can make your eyes feel dry or irritated.
The same is true if you’re spending time indoors near a heating source, which can contribute to your eyes feeling drier than usual. Being dehydrated can also leave your eyes feeling like they lack essential moisture.
Whatever the cause of your dry eyes, though, you can address them with a few simple lifestyle changes. In more severe cases, there are also some professional treatment options.
In the warmer months, you probably feel more compelled to drink water than when it’s cold. But dehydration is a risk no matter what the weather may be doing.
Whether it’s hot or cold outside, you need enough water intake all year round. If you don’t feel like drinking cold water during the winter, there are other ways to stay hydrated.
You can get some of your water through things like soup, herbal tea, and warm broths. Do your best to cut out liquids that dehydrate you if your eyes already feel drier than usual. These can be ways to supplement how much water you’re consuming, but for the best results, you still need to be drinking water daily as well.
Get the Nutrients You Need
Bolstering your eye health through nutrition is a great way to treat dry eye syndrome and even temporarily dry eyes. The number one nutrient for good tear health is omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fatty fish like tuna and salmon, walnuts, and various seeds. Eating these foods, along with dark, leafy greens, can improve your tear and eye health.
You can also get omega-3 fatty acids by taking supplements like fish oil or flaxseed oil. It’s more efficient to get your nutrients directly from food, but taking these supplements may still help if you find it challenging to incorporate omega-3 fatty acids into your diet.
Use a Humidifier
When it’s warm out, you may think nothing of putting on the air conditioner to stay cool. But when it’s cold out, your eyes may be paying the price when you turn on your heat for the season.
Your heat may keep you warm, but if your eyes feel dry or scratchy, using a humidifier can help. Heating your house can result in losing moisture from the air. A humidifier can keep the air from getting too dry while still allowing you to keep your home warm.
Consider buying a humidifier for your home, but make it a point to sit away from your heating sources if you choose not to. Having air blowing directly at you, especially on your face, can quickly dry out your eyes. Be cautious when you turn on the heat or even use your fireplace.
Seek Professional Treatment
If changing your environment doesn’t help your symptoms, the next step should be seeing your eye doctor. They’ll probably suggest you start by taking nutritional supplements and using over-the-counter artificial tears before more intensive treatment.
But if these measures don’t give you relief, there are more options. An ophthalmologist can prescribe medications and offer therapy for meibomian gland dysfunction.
Diagnosing someone with meibomian gland dysfunction can be tricky, but your eye doctor can measure the composition of your tears to determine if they lack enough oil. If they do, that’s a good indication that the meibomian glands aren’t producing enough oil.
Those with meibomian gland dysfunction may benefit from a special kind of therapy that can soften oil clogging up the glands using light and heat.
If you have a more severe case of dry eye syndrome, you may be a good candidate for punctal plugs. Punctal plugs are tiny plugs inserted into the puncta, which are the openings in the corner of your eye near your nose.
Your tears naturally drain through these openings, so blocking them off forces tears to stay on the surface of your eye longer. When tears remain on the surface of the eye longer, it helps reduce dry eye symptoms and delivers essential nutrients through your tears.
If you have dry eyes, know that you don’t have to suffer from the discomfort. Making simple changes can help immensely, and further treatment from your eye doctor can give you the relief you need to enjoy your holiday.
Ready to enjoy Thanksgiving and the holidays again? Schedule an appointment at Omaha Eye & Laser Institute in Omaha, NE, to learn more about how to treat your dry eyes today!