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Managing dry eye in every season

Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash

Harsh weather conditions and seasonal changes can have a big impact on the health of our eyes. 

The most common complaint is a condition called dry eye, which currently affects two in three adults in the U.K. At some point, almost everyone experiences that dry, scratchy sensation in their eyes. Yet for some people, dry eye is more than a temporary annoyance. 

The first step to combating the discomfort of dry eye is to gain a better understanding of the seasonal factors that play into the condition. Read on for some top tips on dealing with dry eye in all four seasons. 

What is Dry Eye?

Dry Eye is a common condition that occurs when your tears can't produce adequate lubrication for your eyes. Your eyes rely on a moisturising tear film – a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus – to function properly. When there is an imbalance in the tear film, or a decrease in tear production, the eyes become dry and sore. The effects are usually felt in both eyes and can include:

  • Burning or stinging sensation

  • Sticky discharge from the eye 

  • Dry, itchy or scratchy eyes

  • Blurred vision

  • Redness in the eye 

  • Episodes of excess tears 

  • Heavy eyelids 

  • Contact lens discomfort

The good news is that dry eye is a very treatable condition. The most effective way to relieve mild dry eye is to reverse the effects by increasing the volume of water in the eyes, using over-the-counter medications such as artificial tears, gels and ointments. However, there are a few other seasonal remedies that can help alleviate the effects of dry eye. 

Dry eye and seasonal eye allergies share similar symptoms and the correct diagnosis is essential. Some people may suffer from dry eye only, or seasonal allergies only, though there’s a good chance that both conditions are present. The annual recurrence of the symptoms is a clue, but an eye care specialist will be able to confidently determine what’s causing the discomfort. 

Dry Eye in the Summer

The heat and humidity of the summer months can sap the moisture from our eyes and leave them feeling painful parched. And while air conditioning offers a reprieve from the heat, it’s likely to extrapolate the drying effects. 

Facial cleanliness is vital for good eye hygiene, especially during the summer when exposure to sweat, sun cream, chlorine and dust may further irritate the eyes. Be sure to wash your face and eyelids at the end of the day to keep your eyes debris-free. 

Artificial tears are often the first line of defence if you have dry eyes. Drinking plenty of water is also essential to keeping your eyes healthy and hydrated in warm weather. Your eyes will also benefit from adjusting fans or air conditioning units so that they’re not blowing directly in your eyes. 

Seasonal sufferers should try to avoid outdoor activities that may aggravate allergies, like gardening, or if that’s not possible, slip on a pair of safety goggles or sunglasses to protect your peepers from pesky irritants. 

Dry Eye in the Autumn

Dry, cold air is often the culprit of dry eyes during autumn. Keep your eyes moist with artificial tears and try to avoid heated rooms and other low humidity environments. 

Allergies also tend to act up in autumn due to an influx of airborne allergens, such as mould spores or ragweed pollen. If your itchy eyes are combined with sneezing and a runny nose, then autumn allergies could be the problem. 

If you’re a contact lens wearer suffering from seasonal allergies, it’s recommended that you wear glasses for a couple of days a week to ensure that your eyes receive enough oxygen to keep them healthy. Consider switching to daily disposables during the autumn months to avoid the build-up of allergens on your lenses. 

Dry Eye in the Winter

Our eyes have a lot to contend with during the winter months. Cold air and gusty winds can reduce the natural moisture in our eyes, causing them to dry out. Yet, staying cooped up indoors with heaters, fires and increased screen time can have the same drying effect as the wintery weather outside. 

So, what can be done to remedy these effects? Consider using a humidifier at home to increase the moisture in the air, use rewetting drops to lubricate the eyes, and try to avoid sitting too close to heat sources like fires or fan heaters. Drinking plenty of water will also help to maintain moisture in the eyes. 

Dryness can be particularly deliberating for those who wear contact lenses. If your contacts are causing further irritation, give your eyes a break and wear glasses for a few days. Alternatively, speak to your optometrist about switching to silicone-based hydrogel lenses, which offer more comfort than the traditional lens. 

Dry Eye in the Spring 

Dry eye symptoms spike during April when the pollen counts are at their highest. When these seasonal allergens creep into the tear film, they cause the Meibomian glands in the eyelid to become blocked. As a result, it cannot produce the essential oils required for a stable tear film, which can cause dryness and inflammation in the eye. 

An obvious solution is to avoid allergens, although if that’s not possible, there are other steps that seasonal sufferers can take to minimise the effects. Apply rewetting drops to flush away allergens or slip on a cool eye mask to reduce inflammation. Wearing sunglasses outside can reduce the amount of pollen entering the eyes. 

If you find that your dry eye symptoms flare up every spring, seasonal allergies might be part of the problem. However, the only way to be sure is to be tested for dry eye. 

Having dry eyes is uncomfortable, but it doesn’t rule out your ability to wear contacts. There’s a slew of contact lenses on the market that are designed to help people with dry eyes, including the 1-day ACUVUE Oasys lenses. 

ACUVUE’s unique HydraLuxe Technology Acuvue Oasyscombines tear-like molecules and a highly breathable silicone hydrogel material, to help reduce the symptoms of tired and dry eyes, allowing you to wear your lenses for longer

Like all ACUVUE products, Oasys provides one of the highest levels of UV protection available and the lens comes complete with a helpful handling tint and an inside-out indicator. 

ACUVUE has developed a range of contacts specifically designed to reduce the effects of dry eye discomfort during lens wear. Speak to your optometrist to find a pair that fits your lifestyle and visual requirements.  

Visit the ACUVUE brand store