Node Smith, ND
Dry Eyes Season is Upon us
Many people complain more about dry, itchy and watery eyes during the winter than any other time of the year. It’s largely due to the cold weather leading people to live indoors with the heat on all day, which dries out the mucus membranes and can be very irritating to the eyes (and nose, as well). Also, the dry outdoor conditions can also lead to this irritation.
Cold Weather Can Cause Dehydration
Tears (like when we cry), are what keep the eyes lubricated and feeling good. When we blink, tears spread evenly across the cornea of the eye and prevent the eye from drying out and becoming irritated. Eye trauma, and dehydration, are common causes of eye dryness, because they reduce the amount of tears the body is able to produce. But most people forget that cold weather can also have this effect. In this case, it’s the lack of humidity in the air that is the biggest culprit. Humidity generally drops as the temperature goes down, and also, when indoor heat is used it also lowers the humidity in our environment.
So, if you are feeling itchy, dry eyes, or are susceptible to dry eyes in the winter time, here are some ideas which may help.
If you use your heat all day, and it tends to be dry inside your house or work space, use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air. A humidifier is also a great device to add essential oils to instead of a diffuser, when you’re feeling sick, or simply wanting to cleanse the air.
Clean your Contacts
If you’re prone to dry eyes and wear contacts, cleaning them will add lubrication to the contact and the eye, and make them feel less irritating.
Drink lots of Fluids
This is probably the most obvious, though it is common to feel like we don’t need to drink as much water during the cold weather. This is not true, it’s just not as preferable to drink cold water on a cold day. Try drinking more, and larger glasses of herbal tea, or drink heated water from the office water dispenser.
Protect your Eyes
When you go outside, consider wearing eye protection if its windy, or keep your face shielded.
Divert Heat from your Face
Heat blowing directly on your face will tend to dry out your eyes quicker. When in the car, or if you have a heater at the office, try to position the vents away from your face.
See your Doctor
Consider consulting with a naturopath regarding liquid tears, homeopathic remedies, possible food allergies and other things that can both cause and prevent dry eyes.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.