Winter dries the eyes – watery eyes indicate dryness

According to the Finnish Society of Ophthalmology, up to 40 per cent of Finnish people suffer from dry eyes at some point in their lives. The symptoms of dry eye usually get worse in the winter. Cold outdoor air, strong cold wind and heated indoor air exacerbate the feeling of dryness in the eyes. Petra Larmo, PhD, Head of R&D at Aromtech in Finland, says that diet and self-care products can help with dry eye.

Dry eye occurs more in the winter, because when the air gets colder, the humidity level also decreases. A low humidity level makes the tears that protect the surface of the eye evaporate too quickly. Wind, and especially strong cold wind, can also increase the feeling of dryness in the eyes. The humidity level of indoor air is also low during the winter heating season.

“In a European study, more than a third of the people felt that cold outside air made their dry eyes worse and two out of three felt that wind made their dry eyes worse. According to a study conducted in the United States, significantly more dry eye symptoms were reported during the months when indoor heating was used,” says Petra Larmo, PhD, Head of R&D at Aromtech.

Dry eye affects women more often than men, and the disease tends to get worse as you get older. A low humidity level increases the evaporation of tears even in people who do not normally suffer from increased tear evaporation.

“The symptoms of dry eye include a feeling of dryness and burning in the eyes and a feeling that there is something in your eye. Watery eyes are also a symptom of dry eye. When it is windy and the surface of the eye gets dry, the body tries to compensate by producing excess tears,” says Larmo.

Tips for people suffering from dry eye

  • You can relieve dry eye with diet. Studies show that the risk of dry eye is higher if the diet is low in n-3 fatty acids or if the ratio of n-6/n-3 fatty acids is wrong. A diet that follows nutrition recommendations also supports eye health and can reduce the risk of dry eye.
  • Get enough vitamins. A low intake of vitamin A may increase the symptoms of dryness in the eyes. Studies have also suggested that vitamins C and E can help with dry eye. You should follow the recommendations and eat different vegetables, berries and fruit.
  • Start using sea buckthorn oil. The Membrasin Vision products developed by Aromtech contain sea buckthorn oil, which studies have shown to help with the symptoms of dryness in the eyes.
  • Wear glasses. The use of contact lenses can increase dry eye, so you should wear glasses in dry winter weather.
  • Wear goggles. Wearing goggles outdoors reduces the eyes’ exposure to wind.
  • Take enough breaks. Long hours in front of a screen often increase the feeling of dryness in the eyes, so you should take short breaks frequently.

*) Larmo P, Järvinen R, Setälä N, Yang B, Viitanen M, Engblom J, Tahvonen R, Kallio H. Oral sea buckthorn oil attenuates tear film osmolarity and symptoms in individuals with dry eye. J. Nutr. 2010; 140: 1462-1468.

**Dietary supplement: contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A that supports the maintenance of normal vision. Vitamin E helps protect cells from oxidative stress.

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