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Winter survival guide for dry eye sufferers

winter guide for dry eye sufferers

It is getting colder outside but that roaring fire might not help your dry eyes!

The winter is no friend to dry eye sufferers with many people noticing their symptoms getting worse both indoors and outdoors. This is due to lower air humidity during the winter months resulting in greater moisture loss from your eyes. This affects everyone, but as a dry eye suffer you are at greatest risk due to the fact that the quality and quantity of your tears are already compromised.

Dry eye symptoms are experienced when moisture is lost faster than your natural tears can replenish it. This dryness results in an inflammatory response which leads to those all too familiar dry, tired, itchy and sore feeling eyes. For some these symptoms are accompanied by blurry vision too. The cold winter air is dryer than at other times of the year, and that low winter sun and gusty wind does not help things either. Whilst indoors we respond to the colder temperatures by turning up the heating and even getting an open fire going. All-in-all your dry eyes will definitely be feeling under attack!

However, there is plenty you can do to reduce these effects and protect your dry eyes this winter – so do not suffer in silence. Instead follow Dry Eye Zone dry eye winter survival guide.

Beat the dry eye symptoms indoors

Use a humidifier

If you are able to buy a humidifier* then do and use it when the heating is on. Adding moisture back into the air will make a real difference. However, not everyone is in a position to make such an investment so instead keep a small bowl of water near to your heaters – this will also help to some degree.

* Always follow the manufacturers cleaning instructions as humidifiers can attract mould and bacteria.

Put on a woolly jumper

If you can tolerate it why not turn the heating down a degree or two and make up for it with an extra layer? Although it is important to keep yourself warm during cold spells avoiding a ‘hot’ room can help prevent those sore, tired gritty eyes.

And of course air the room daily, letting in moist fresh air will help not just your eyes but your general sense of well-being.

Avoid warm air

It may seem obvious but heat sources which actually blow warm air into your eyes will irritate even if you do not have dry eye! Make sure you turn heating vents away from you at home and in the car.

And once in a while just let your hair dry naturally to avoid the impact of a hair dryer.

Start the day with a dry eye boost

Each morning start your day with a 10-minute hot compress on the eye lids for a soothing boost to your tears (your eyes natural moisture). You might also like to consider putting a few drops of your usual dry eye drops into your eyes an extra morning boost.

Do not wait for symptoms to start

Because dry eye is a chronic inflammatory condition once you feel the symptoms start you have already entered the dry eye ‘viscous cycle’ which unless broken will self-perpetuate. Try to avoid it starting by using your dry eye drops throughout the day – before the symptoms start.

And whether indoors or outdoors – keep blinking

Make a point of doing a few slow blinks and squeezing your eyes shut when you safely can - this helps give your eyes a fresh supply of protective moisture. And if using screens for extended periods of time don’t forget the 20-20-20 rule. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

A good-night blanket for your eyes

If you are keeping your heating on for some or all of the night your eyes may feel particularly dry in the morning. The use of an ointment just before bed will help to protect your eye during the night.

Beat the dry eye symptoms outdoors

Wear your glasses

The cold winds and glaring sun will both cause disruption to your tears, coming back from a country walk with watery eyes is a common winter complaint. You can help to reduce these symptoms why wearing your glasses – and even sun glasses – when out and about.

Use your eye drops before heading out

Using a dry eye drop before facing the cold winter air might help keep those annoying symptoms at bay. You can learn more about what sort of eye drop is best suited for the management of dry eye here.

If you are experiencing dry eye symptoms then you should ask the advice of your eye care professional. Why not book your next eye examination with an independent optician today.


Kumar N, Feuer W, Lanza NL, Galor A. Seasonal Variation in Dry Eye. Ophthalmology. 2015 Aug;122(8):1727-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2015.02.013. Epub 2015 Apr 6. PMID: 25912217; PMCID: PMC4757523.

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Berg EJ, Ying GS, Maguire MG, Sheffield PE, Szczotka-Flynn LB, Asbell PA, Shen JF; DREAM Study Research Group. Climatic and Environmental Correlates of Dry Eye Disease Severity: A Report From the Dry Eye Assessment and Management (DREAM) Study. Transl Vis Sci Technol. 2020 Apr 29;9(5):25. doi: 10.1167/tvst.9.5.25. PMID: 32821497; PMCID: PMC7401914.

Eleesha Lockett with medical review by Dr D R Wilson. Healthline. DIY Humidifiers for Homemade Humidity. March 10, 2020

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