Some ways to help you manage and prevent dry eyes in winter include applying warm compresses, trying eye drops, and using a humidifier, among others.

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It’s not unusual to notice that your eyes are drier in the winter.

You can’t change the weather, but some treatments may help you manage your symptoms.

Keep reading to learn about treatment and prevention strategies to help combat dry eyes in winter.

Research suggests dry eyes are more likely to occur in dry, cold weather.

The eye is covered by a tear film that comprises three layers. These are responsible for lubricating and protecting your eye from environmental irritants.

However, several factors that are more likely to occur in the winter months — like strong winds and low humidity — may affect your tear film.

This may lead to dry eyes because they may affect:

  • the stability of your tear film
  • its ability to produce tears
  • how quickly tears evaporate

According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), general causes of dry eye may include:

  • taking certain medications, such as for hypertension, allergies, and depression
  • having certain underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, lupus, and Sjögren syndrome
  • having eye surgery
  • spending a lot of time looking at screens

Treatment for dry eyes in the winter will depend on several factors, such as the underlying cause and the severity of your symptoms.

A healthcare professional will typically recommend a combination of treatments for best results.

Artificial tears

Artificial tears are eye drops that may help restore the natural moisture to your eyes. They’re the most common treatments for dry eyes and are available over the counter at most pharmacies.

If you wear contact lenses, it’s important to choose contact-friendly options.

If over-the-counter (OTC) artificial tears don’t help your symptoms, speak with a healthcare professional. They may recommend prescription eye drops for your dry eyes.

Eye ointments

OTC eye ointments are thicker than eyedrops and are usually applied to the inner lower lash line.

Eye ointments can be used alongside artificial tears to help provide longer moisturization.

The American Academy of Opthalmology suggests applying eye ointments before bedtime because they could cause temporary blurriness. That said, it’s recommended not to use these if you wear contact lenses.

Indoor humidifiers

A key contributing factor to dry eyes in the winter is dry, low-humidity air. This may be caused by using indoor heaters, strong winds, or spending a lot of time outdoors.

While you certainly shouldn’t freeze to combat dry eyes, using an indoor humidifier can restore moisture to the air.

It’s important to clean your humidifier, as the moisture in humidifiers can naturally attract mold and bacteria. This can turn your otherwise helpful humidifier into a breeding ground for illness.

Also, heated humidifiers have the potential to injure and burn children or pets who may accidentally knock them over or reach for them. Make sure you place your humidifier in a safe place in your home.

Warm compresses

Research suggests that warm compresses may provide temporary relief from dry eyes. They may help improve the stability and thickness of your tear film. They may also help with blinking completely instead of partially blinking, which can increase eye lubrication.

Soak a washcloth in warm water and apply over closed eyes for 10 minutes to soothe and rest them. Heated eye masks can also be used.

The NEI suggests the following lifestyle changes to help you avoid dry eyes in the winter:

  • Wear wraparound glasses when you go outside to protect your eyes from the wind.
  • Minimize your screen time.
  • Drink 8–10 glasses of water daily.
  • Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

It’s important to note that some medications for colds may cause dry eyes, such as antihistamines. If you have dry eyes and you get a cold, speak with a healthcare professional. They could suggest the best treatment for you.

Occasional dry eye symptoms due to weather changes aren’t usually cause for concern. You’ll usually notice your symptoms worsen when you’ve been outside or in a very hot room.

However, if OTC treatments and preventive methods don’t help improve your symptoms, speak with a healthcare professional. They could provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your health condition.

Medical treatment will depend on the underlying cause and the severity of your symptoms. However, a healthcare professional may recommend prescription eye drops, tear duct plugs, or surgery to help prevent tear drainage.

How do you treat dry eyes in the winter?

Some ways to help treat dry eyes in the winter include OTC eye drops, warm compresses, and using a humidifier.

Is there a vitamin deficiency that causes dry eyes?

A 2022 review suggests that supplementation of vitamins A and D may be beneficial to help treat dry eye. However, the authors note that long-term supplementation of vitamin A may lead to some health complications.

Speak with a healthcare professional before trying new supplements to help avoid side effects.

How can I protect my eyes from dry weather?

Using OTC artificial tears or wearing wraparound sunglasses when you’re outside may help protect your eyes from dry, windy weather.

How do you stop your eyes from watering in cold weather?

Treatment for watery eyes in cold weather will depend on the underlying cause. For example, temporary watery eyes can be relieved with OTC eye drops. However, if you regularly experience watery eyes, speak with a healthcare professional. You may require a different treatment, such as a small surgery to block your tear ducts.

Dry eyes in winter are common. They may be caused by several factors, such as low humidity, strong winds, and cold temperatures, among others.

Most symptoms will resolve with at-home treatments to restore moisture.

However, if your dry eyes persist, talk with a doctor to ensure there’s no underlying cause.

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