Winter is coming! And no am not talking about the most popular tv series ever. I can almost hear GOT fans going ‘’yeah!!!’’.
This is the season which most of us enjoy, the pleasant mornings and the chilly nights, time for holidays, get-togethers around barbeques and bonfires. What winter season also brings with it are various health issues, like rising in cases of common flu, exacerbation of respiratory illness, etc. In a milder form, we see dry skin and dry eyes, these happen due to a drop in the relative humidity in the air during winters compared to monsoons.
We tend to lose moisture from our skin and eyes, while skin is far more resistant to damage; it is our eyes that need special care during winters.
Did you know our eyes are constantly exposed to the environment and are at the receiving end of harsh pollution, dust, dry air; they have an ingenious protective mechanism in the form of a three-layer tear film and blinking!
The tear film is composed of three layers -an innermost mucin layer, a gel-like substance, which anchors the other two layers to the surface of the eye, a middle aqueous layer like water forms the bulk of the tear film and an outermost oily layer which coats the other two layers and prevents evaporation by external factors. Truly sophisticated, isn’t it?!
Blinking, on the other hand, behaves like a windshield wiper of your car, clearing any dust or debris and refreshing the tear film, these mechanisms ensure our eyes are always kept clean and moist.
Nowadays, with excessive gadget use by children and elders alike, eyes are already under a lot of stress and the dryness that comes with winters is only worsening eye health.
So What can we do to prevent this from happening-
Follow good lid hygiene, wherein keep your eyelids clean by washing them with non-tear shampoo, prevent any dust or crusts from collecting in the lashes as these tend to hinder tear film formation and act as a reservoir for infections. This holds important for those who use eye makeup, ensure that you use non-chemical products and clean the lids thoroughly to remove them.
Alternately, one can use lid wipes to clean the lids.
In case you use contact lenses, remember to not wear them for more than 6-7 hrs a day, maintain good hand hygiene and use lubricant drops as advised by your doctor.
In winters, using a warm compress over the lids gives a soothing relaxing feeling as well as helps in keeping oil secretions from the lids at optimum which is essential for the oily layer of the tear film.
In case you can afford it, an air humidifier in the room helps to keep up the moisture levels, which prevents dry eyes and also benefits people with respiratory illnesses.
When stepping out in this weather, make sure your eyes are not directly exposed to the cold wind, wear glasses or a helmet if you are travelling on 2 wheelers.
If you use gadgets excessively, try to restrict usage or at least take frequent breaks, which is not only good for your eyes but your neck and back too!
Make a conscious effort to blink frequently, as there is a tendency of reduced blink rate when we concentrate on work, most commonly during screen time.
Use lubricant eye drops as prescribed by your eye doctor, these drops help in supplementing and Restoring the tear film.
Smoking has a direct effect on dry eyes wherein, chronic smokers have a higher incidence of dry eyes. so, this would be a good time to ‘kick the butt’! no pun intended!
And last but not least, ensure adequate rest and sleep for your eyes, avoid using your phone at bedtime, good undisturbed sleep is paramount for your eyes as well as mind and body!
Wishing my readers good health and happy holidays!
Authored by: Dr Satya Prasad Balki, M.S F.C.A.S (AEH), Consultant Ophthalmologist, Cornea, phaco-refractive services, MaxiVision Eye hospital, Hyderabad