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As the driest time of the year in most climates, winter often comes with increased chances of developing dry eye. Dry, dusty conditions can trigger and exacerbate this unpleasant eye condition, but these are not the only causes. In general, if anything is preventing your tear ducts from producing enough basal tears to keep your eyes lubricated, or if those tears are evaporating too quickly, you may develop dry eye and require medical attention from your ophthalmologist.

One of the most common causes of dry eye, in winter and any other time of the year, is an imbalance in the production of saline, mucus, and oil in the tears. If the balance is off, the tears will not be able to spread evenly across the eye, or they could evaporate into the air too quickly. Are you at an increased risk for dry eye this winter?


Individuals over the age of 50 have an increased chance of developing dry eye due to imbalances in tear production or because the skin of their lower eyelids has become heavy with fat deposits or stretched with age, pulling the lids away from the eyes. When lids are pulled away in this manner, they may not provide protection to the eyes, and dry eye is a real risk at all times.


Even if you aren’t getting on in years, you may still be at risk for dry eye this winter. If, for example, you take one or more of a number of medications, you could be at risk. Medications that can cause dry eye in some patients include, but are not limited to, sleeping pills and anxiety medication, beta-blockers, diuretics, pain relievers, and antihistamines.


Diuretics put some people at risk for dry eye because they have a dehydrating effect. Alcohol is a powerful dehydrator, and over-consumption, especially on a regular basis, can lead to dry eye and other health problems. If you regularly drink to excess, or have trouble maintaining hydration, you could easily throw off the balance of your tear production, causing dry eye.


Especially if you’ve only just started wearing them, contact lenses can dry your eyes out, leaving them itchy, red, and uncomfortable. If you’re new to wearing contacts, or wear contacts for extended periods of time in the winter, start limiting the amount of time and how often you wear them to avoid dry eye.

You can also combat dry eye by using artificial tears when your eyes feel dry or irritated, avoiding cigarette smoke, and by avoiding air movement, such as that caused by hair dryers, fans, and harsh winds. If you do suffer from dry eye this winter, you can relieve the pain and itchiness by applying warm compresses to your eyes and increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which will help balance your tear production.

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