Add dry eyes to the health woes of winter. Do all the ads for dry eye relief have you thinking you could have this condition? If you’ve ever felt like you had a grain of sand in your eye when nowhere close to the beach, you could be experiencing dry eye.
Exactly what is dry eye? Simply put, it’s when you aren’t making enough tears to keep the front surface of the eye lubricated, or your tears don’t have enough water in them. Eyes can feel gritty, scratchy or like they’re burning. You might even notice excess watering or blurred vision.
Tear production often lessens with age, but it can also be the result of a medical condition — not only eye diseases but also rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems.
It can also be a side effect of certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants. Living in a dry, windy climate or just sitting in front of a cozy fireplace in the winter can cause tears to evaporate.
“On average, the humidity drops in the winter with the colder weather [and] most people turn on the heat in their homes or offices to combat the cold,” Dr. Marissa Locy, who’s with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s department of ophthalmology says.
“What you end up having is lower humidity outside, and even lower humidity inside — making for warm, dry conditions where moisture can evaporate from the eye faster than normal,” she explained in a university news release.
What to do?
There’s much you can do to restore the normal amount of tears, according to the American Optometric Association, starting with over-the-counter artificial tear solutions, or prescription eye drops or ointments. See your eye professional to discuss the options and find out what’s most appropriate for you.
Locy suggests several steps to protect your eyes from becoming dry: