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5 Winter Eye Health Challenges and How to Combat Them

Winter can take a toll on your body, health, and mood — and your eyes are no exception! From exacerbating dry eyes to increased light sensitivity, here are some ways the cold season can impact your vision and how you can protect your eyesight.

Your eyes allow you to navigate your day-to-day life, so protecting them is paramount. Often, your eyes are the first to show issues within your body, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Taking steps such as visiting your Calgary eye doctor regularly, wearing protective eyewear when necessary, and following a healthy diet will help: 

  • Lower your risk of developing certain eye conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts
  • Protect you against eye injuries 
  • Keep your vision clear and comfortable 
  • Make it easier to spot any signs of your changing vision

Taking the right steps to promote eye health and safety can keep specific eye diseases and injuries at bay. It can also help you identify changes in your vision faster, so any problems can be caught and managed early on. 

Our Calgary Optometrists Can Protect Your Eye Health All Year Round 

Whether the cold weather is exacerbating your dry eyes, or you are experiencing sudden changes in your vision, our friendly and professional Calgary optometrists offer services such as dry eye care and emergency eye care to protect your vision and help you maintain optimal eye health all year round. 

Want to know more? 


5 Winter Eye Health Challenges and How to Combat Them 

While you probably remind yourself to drive more carefully and bundle up before going outside now that it’s winter, you may overlook the seasonal threats to your eye health. 

Here are five ways the cold weather can affect your eyes and the steps you can take to ensure your vision stays clear and your eyes healthy during the holiday season: 

1. Dry Eyes 

Cold outdoor air and heated indoor air typically have less moisture in them compared to other environments. Due to this low humidity, you may experience dry skin and chapped lips, and your dry eye condition may become exacerbated. In addition to this, the cold air and blistering winds can also inflame the areas in and around your eyes. 

What you should do: To improve the quality of your indoor air, keep a humidifier running in your home. Make sure you stay hydrated and also consider increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. If you find that your dry eye symptoms are affecting your daily life, visit your Calgary optometrist for treatment options. 


2. Excess Tearing 

While some people experience dry eyes in the winter, others have the opposite problem. Excess tearing can occur due to cold air, seasonal allergies, central heating, or even increased time spent in front of the television and other digital devices. 

What you should do: If your eyes begin to water when you are outside, consider wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes. In addition, allergy medication or the appropriate eye drops can reduce the effect of any seasonal allergies. If these treatments fail to improve your symptoms or if the wateriness alters your vision, you should visit your optometrist. 

3. Increased Light Sensitivity 

While winter days can seem dark and gloomy, snowfall and ice create many reflective surfaces that can dramatically increase the amount of light entering your eyes. This may result in symptoms such as discomfort, twitching, increased light sensitivity, and the need to blink more often. 

What you should do: Always protect your eyes when you are spending time outdoors and performing activities such as shovelling snow. Talk to your optometrist about investing in a pair of polarized, UV-graded sunglasses. 

4. Eye Redness and Inflammation 

Harsh winter conditions can cause tenderness, inflammation, and redness in the eye area. You may notice eyelid spasms, involuntary tics, or even have swollen eyelids. This could be due to dry eyes, snow blindness, or even seasonal allergies. 

What you should do: To reduce any discomfort or inflammation, apply a cool compress, such as a damp washcloth, over your eyes and take an over-the-counter pain killer if you need to. If your symptoms persist, then you should visit your eye doctor to determine the cause of your irritation. 

5. Sunburned Eyes or Photokeratitis 

It’s true! You can get sunburn on your eyes. How? Severely sunburned eyes, also known as photokeratitis, is a condition caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, like those emitted by the sun, and often occurs when you spend a lot of time outdoors without protective eyewear. If you experience an increase in light sensitivity or any eye irritation/pain following an extended period of time outside, then you may have sunburned eyes.

What you should do: Visit your optometrist for treatment of the symptoms and to prevent any long-term damage. Cumulative UV damage to your eyes can increase your risk of developing AMD and even lead to vision loss. Always make sure to wear protective goggles or sunglasses when you are outside and especially during winter sports. 


Contact Us 

To find out more about how our Calgary optometrists can help protect your eye health and keep your vision clear this winter, and all year round, contact our eye clinic at 403-286-4884 or fill in our online contact form.


  1. Why does the cold weather cause my eyes to water? Tearing up in cold weather is very common and it can be triggered by several things, including dry eyes. If this is happening to you, consider wearing sunglasses while you're outside or using saline eye drops to minimize any symptoms. 
  2. What foods can I eat to prevent dry eyes during the winter? The best foods to eat for dry eyes are those that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids including salmon, sardines, tuna, or herring. For a vegetarian option consider adding kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and flaxseed oil to your diet. 
  3. How long does photokeratitis last? The symptoms of photokeratitis go away on their own within 24-48 hours. Mild photophobia could last for up to 7 days but if any pain or discomfort lasts for longer, or is severe, you should visit your eye doctor. 
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