This winter has been particularly brutal in many regions of the country, turning many people into shut-ins to avoid the bitter cold. For those that choose to brave the elements for the sake of escaping cabin fever, you may wonder how extreme cold impacts your eye health.
Very cold temperatures will constrict the blood vessels in your eyes or freeze your cornea, both painful and compromising to visual clarity. Double vision, blurred vision, and/or loss of vision are likely. Treatment may be as simple as allowing the eye to return to warmer temperatures, but sometimes medication is necessary to add moisture back into the eye’s environment.
Pain & Inflammation
In addition to the pain caused by corneal freeze, general pain related to the cold or wind is common. Cold weather and breezy conditions cause dry eye, a very uncomfortable condition. Another frequent problem for winter eye health occurs when you might attempt to open your unprotected eyes during sports like skiing, snowmobiling, or snowboarding. Your eyes may become red and swollen, feel gritty and painful, and could even suffer permanent damage. Always wear protective goggles or glasses when going outside in low temperatures or winter wind, especially if you’ll be participating in outdoor sports.
Winter does not negate the need for UV protection, and this goes for your eye health too. Don’t be misled by cold temperatures and overcast days. UV can actually be more prevalent in the winter due to the reflection of the sun’s rays off of snow and ice. Always wear UV-blocking sunglasses or goggles during the day to prevent a painful case of Photokeratitis—sunburn on your eye.
Escape the indoors as much as possible this winter, but consider your eye health. Ask your optometrist for more information on cold weather eye safety.