Frigid temperatures, gusty winds and cold, dry winter air outdoors combined with warm, dry air indoors from heating systems can make the winter months an especially challenging time for dry eye sufferers. Complaints of dry eye symptoms definitely intensify this time of year, but patients don’t need to continue to suffer unnecessarily with dry, itchy, red eyes or ironically, excessive tearing.
We are all familiar with the practice of winterizing your car. We make sure we have proper tires with plenty of grip and special anti-freeze coolant in the radiator. A check of the car battery is an important step to make sure it is sufficiently charged along with adding special non-freeze windshield washer fluid to get your vehicle ready for winter driving conditions.
The doctors at Medical Optometry America’s Dry Eye Institute encourage patients to ‘winterize’ their dry winter eyes. There are numerous proactive treatment options that can be employed to treat the root cause of Dry Eye Disease and reduce the irritating symptoms that come along with it this time of year. Many of these therapies have lasting benefit that can help to get you through the harsh winter and even into spring allergy season.
Our team uses state-of-the-art testing equipment to examine the quality and quantity of the tears you produce along with the tear film that coats and protects the sensitive surface of your eye. We also use special imaging devices (such as meibography) to examine the delicate sets of glands that line your upper and lower eye lids. They need to be healthy and in good working order to produce sufficient, high-quality tears to lubricate your eyes and keep them comfortable.
Once testing in complete, our dry eye experts develop a personalized treatment plan to address the physiological cause of your symptoms. This is important to get your eyes healthy and ready to stand up to harsh winter conditions.
MOA’s Dry Eye Institute offers a full suite of treatment options for our patients, but some that are particularly common this time of year include:
Punctal Plugs – these specialized devices are inserted into your tear ducts to prevent excessive draining of tears off the surface of your eyes, keeping an adequate supply of tears and your eyes moistened. The plugs are made of collagen or silicone and can remain in your eye for a few weeks to a few months, depending on the treatment strategy your medical optometrist recommends. This treatment is particularly helpful to get you through the cold winter months.
iLux – this in office treatment helps restore function to damaged or under-performing tear glands around your eyes that often become blocked. The 8-12 minute procedure gently warms and massages your eyelids to liquify and remove blocked gland ducts on your eye lid margin to help boost tear production and provide relief from dry eye.
IPL (Intense Pulsed Light) – this series of in-office treatments helps loosen blocked oils, reduces inflammation and improves gland function. This leading-edge photo-treatment takes just 10 minutes in the office and has the added benefit of stimulating collagen formation around the eyes to soften fine lines and improve pigment where the light passes.
Omega 3 Supplements – the fatty acids in fish oil-based Omega 3 supplements have proven to help many dry eye sufferers and are an essential part of a personalized treatment plan.
Warm Compresses / Heat Mask – these techniques help provide relief from symptoms, but can also sooth the glands around your eyes, reduce blockages and enhance tear production.
Beyond in-office medical eye care treatments, there are numerous steps you can take to keep the air in your indoor environment and the surface of your eyes less dry. Running a humidifier helps improve indoor air quality. It is also important to keep heating vents or fans in your bedroom aimed away from your face when you sleep. When going outdoors, be sure to wear sunglasses or safety goggles to protect your eyes from the wind and cold, dry air.
The winter months can be a trying time for dry eye sufferers. It is important to stay proactive and positive, realizing that the journey to dry eye relief can in some cases be a long one. The experienced team at MOA’s Dry Eye Institute is proud to be a resource for you. To schedule your dry eye evaluation and take your first step to relief that lasts, contact us today.