How to take care of your eyes this winter

Posted: Jun 15 2022

In the winter months we can find ourselves doing more to support our physical health such as moisturising more often to prevent dry skin, taking vitamins to ward off catching a cold or making veggie-loaded meals to support our immune system.

But did you know you can also take better care of your eyes in winter? It’s commonly forgotten that the cooler weather can make an impact on eyes and our vision, one of our most vital senses.

Eye care winter

UV rays are all year round

Did you know 76% of Australians don’t believe it’s necessary to wear UV protective sunglasses during the winter months*?

Sam Loughlin, Health Partners Optometrist, says eye sunburn, known as photokeratitis, often happens when sunlight is reflected off a surface (such as water or bright sand) and then up into our eyes. “Exposure to UV light causes damage to the front part of the eye which is a very sensitive tissue,” Sam says. “Eye sunburn is like sunburn to your skin in that often you don’t realise it has developed until after the damage is done. It can occur even on days that are overcast and can last anywhere between 1-3 days.”

Symptoms of photokeratitis include:

  • Red and painful eyes
  • Watery or blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Gritty feeling under the eyelids

Sam says the best way to prevent photokeratitis is to wear sunglasses that protect against ultraviolet (UV) light.

“Not all sunglasses are made equal.” - SAM LOUGHLIN

“Even polarised lenses may not protect you from UV. Instead, look for the UV light protection rating. This is usually found on the label or tag of the sunglasses and is a category rating from 0-4. Categories 0 and 1 do not provide sufficient UV light protection whereas categories 2 and above do.”

What to do if your eyes get sunburnt?

Unfortunately, like regular sunburn, you can’t undo the burn, but Sam says there are ways to relieve your symptoms.

  • Avoid direct sunlight and if possible, stay inside
  • Place a cool wet compress over your eyes
  • Use artificial tears or lubricating eye drops
  • Take oral pain relief as required
  • Stop using contact lenses
  • Don’t rub or touch your eyes
  • Avoid wearing eye make-up

Dry eye thrives in the cooler weather

During the cooler months dry eye symptoms can be exacerbated as the air is drier outside and also inside because of indoor heating. Dry eye is caused by the eye’s inability to maintain a healthy layer of tears to coat it and our eyes (specifically the cornea) becomes dehydrated.

How do you treat dry eyes?

Depending on the cause and severity, it may not be possible to completely cure dry eyes. However, there are options to manage the condition particularly in winter.

  • Practice good hygiene, like washing your hands often and avoid touching your eyes
  • A humidifier at home may help add moisture to the air
  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • When the weather is especially cold and windy, stay indoors if possible to avoid exposure

Additionally, your optometrist may recommend one or more of the following to generally manage the condition:

  • Lubricating eye drops
  • Omega-3 supplements
  • Take frequent breaks whilst working at a computer
  • Blink frequently
  • Wear sunnies with good UV protection

If you have a severe case of dry eyes your optometrist will discuss alternative treatment options with you.

Find out more about dry eyes.

Wintery weather and glare

Glare is not something you associate with this time of year, yet with changing weather conditions it can make daily activities such as driving more troublesome. Glare occurs where too much light enters the eye, interfering with the eye’s ability to manage it, causing discomfort and momentary visual performance loss#. The human eye is highly sensitive to glare, particularly when driving in traffic where the lighting conditions frequently change. Road surfaces after rain and then in sunshine can cause highly reflective conditions causing glare situations and possible problems with sight – not ideal when driving.

The best way to help minimise glare conditions while driving or out and about during the rainy months is to either:

  • Invest in a pair of good quality polarised sunglasses
  • Ensure your glasses have at least have an anti-reflective coating
  • Try photochromic lenses: lenses that “transition” to darker tints adjusting with the light

In addition, maintaining good eye health through regular eye examinations can help to ensure that there are no underlying health issues that can affect the amount of light your eyes can manage. If you notice any changes to your vision or discomfort with glare, consult with your optometrist.

Protective eyewear in winter sports

Winter sports are upon us, with local clubs calling out for players across netball, football, soccer, hockey clubs and basketball.

While the rate of sports-related eye injuries is low, 10-15% of hospital admissions for eye injuries are sports-related among adults and children, Sports Medicine Australia state the severity of the injury is typically higher as eye injuries can result in permanent eye damage or loss of eyesight^.

Where appropriate, wearing protective eyewear will assist to minimise the severity of sporting related eye injuries. Consultation with your optometrist is recommended for the best protection options suitable for you.


Snow trips and reflective UV rays

When it’s time to hit the slopes don’t let those overcast skies and crisp air fool you, on a sunny day and fresh snow falls can reflect up to 90% of UV radiation~. Not only is the UV hitting your eyes from above, it bounces off of the snow and reflects from other directions.

This overexposure to the sun’s UV rays is commonly called ‘snow blindness’. Symptoms include a burning sensation in the eye, blurred vision, red and swollen eyelids, and headaches.

Tips to avoid snow blindness include;

  • Wear protective eyewear when out on the mountain during the day, skiing or snowboarding
  • Wear wrap-around goggles that are correctly fitted, preventing UV rays from coming through the top or sides
  • Select eyewear that meets Australian standards; lenses that will block 95% of UV radiation

¹Comcare (2012), Eye Health in the Workplace, https://www.comcare.gov.au/about/forms-publications/documents/publications/safety/eye-health-in-the-workplace-guide.pdf

2Optometry Australia (2020), The 2020 Vision Index, https://www.optometry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/GVFL/Year_2020/2020-Vision-Index-Report-FINAL.pdf

3International Review of Ophthalmic Optics (2020), COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and Eye Protection Guidance, https://www.pointsdevue.com/article/covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe-and-eye-protection-guidance

*Good Vision for Life. (2020). The 2020 Vision Index. Retrieved from https://www.optometry.org.au/wp-content/uploads/GVFL/Year_2020/2020-Vision-Index-Report-FINAL.pdf

Healthline. (2020). Treating (and Preventing) Dry Eyes in Winter. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/dry-eyes-in-winter

#Beyond 20/20. (2008). Contrast Sensitivity, Glare, and Quality of Vision. Retrieved from https://global.transitions.com/TransitionsCanadaPro/White%20Papers/Beyond%2020-20%20Contrast%20Sensitivity,%20Glare,%20and%20Quality%20of%20Vision.pdf

^Optometry Australia. (2017). Winter sports sign-up and eye protection. Retrieved from https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/2017/03/14/winter-sports-sign-eye-protection/. A. Hoskin.

~Good Vision for Life. (2018). Why wearing sunglasses in winter is just as important as summer. Retrieved from https://goodvisionforlife.com.au/2021/07/27/snow-season-is-upon-us-and-so-is-reflective-uv/

Posted: Jun 15 2022

Disclaimer

The information contained here is of a general nature and does not take into account your personal medical situation. The information is not a substitute for independent professional medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or used for therapeutic purposes. Should you require specific medical information, please seek advice from your healthcare practitioner. Health Partners does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information provided. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them.

© Copyright Health Partners. 2022 All Rights Reserved.

Health Partners is committed to providing quality and affordable health care, and we value our members and our obligation to protect your privacy. As part of our responsibility in protecting your privacy, from time to time we review our policies to ensure we are meeting our obligations. We have recently made some updates to our Privacy Policy. Please click here to view the Health Partners Privacy Policy.

Contact Us

1300 113 113 Mon 8am - 8pm

Send us a message

Contact options and opening hours

View all