Summertime Tips for Dealing With Chronic Dry Eye
Submitted by Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center on July 16, 2019
Dry eye symptoms have the unfortunate tendency to worsen during the summertime, sometimes interfering with plans for outdoor activities. If you’re like many of our patients at Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center, you need extra help protecting your eyes. Here are our top tips for keeping your dry eyes healthy as you enjoy your summer.
Dry eye basics
Every time you blink, the movement spreads tears across your eyes, creating a tear film that’s vital for healthy eyes and vision. Your tear film lubricates the cornea, delivers oxygen and nutrients to your eye, and promotes healing. Tears even contain an antibacterial enzyme that helps prevent infections.
The condition known as dry eye develops when something is wrong with your tears. You may not produce enough tears, or your tears may evaporate too quickly because they don’t contain the proper ratio of the three components in tears: oil, water, and mucin.
One of the most common causes of dry eye is called meibomian gland dysfunction, a condition that occurs when the glands don’t provide enough oil for your tears. Dry eye could also develop when the lacrimal glands don’t produce enough water to keep your eyes moistened.
No matter what causes your dry eye condition, you end up with uncomfortable symptoms, such as:
- Itchy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Blurry vision
- Feeling like something is in your eyes
Since eyes respond to irritation by producing extra tears, you can even end up with runny, watery eyes when you have dry eye.
Why your chronic dry eye can worsen during summer
These are some of the summer-related problems that frequently aggravate chronic dry eye:
Spending more time outside
Spending time outside during the summer exposes your eyes to more ultraviolet light and wind than usual. Sunlight is especially bothersome if dry eye makes your eyes sensitive to light. Meanwhile, wind and sunlight make tears evaporate more quickly, leaving your eyes drier than ever.
Salt from the ocean and chlorine from swimming pools also have a serious impact, as they diminish your tear film. Even people who don’t have chronic dry eye develop the problem due to summertime swimming.
Exposure to air conditioning and fans
Air conditioning gets you through heat waves, but any time air blows in your face — whether from air conditioning, a fan, or the wind — it quickly evaporates your tear film. If you already have chronic dry eye, this extra nudge can severely worsen your symptoms.
Levels of tree, weed, and grass pollen are notoriously high in Atlanta in the summertime. The combination of chronic dry eye and allergies magnifies your eye symptoms. Using antihistamines to treat your allergy symptoms also affects your dry eyes because antihistamines reduce your tears.
Summertime tips for dealing with chronic dry eye
You can take some simple steps to keep your chronic dry eye symptoms under control during the summertime. Our top tips include:
Sunglasses are not optional; they’re essential. Your sunglasses should provide 100% UV protection, or UV400, which means they block UVA and UVB rays. Choose sunglasses that wrap around your face or have a wide arm that protects the sides of your eyes.
Polarized lenses add another layer of protection by blocking reflected sunlight. This is a great option if you spend a lot of time around water or sand because they reflect a significant amount of sunlight.
Wear goggles when swimming
Wear goggles to keep aggravating chemicals like chlorine out of your eyes.
Wear a hat
A wide-brimmed hat blocks sunlight that would reach your eyes from above or the sides of your sunglasses.
Use humidifiers, air filters, or air purifiers
Whenever possible, add humidifiers to your environment. Humidifiers put extra moisture into the air, so your tears evaporate more slowly. Air filters and air purifiers help remove dust and allergens that irritate dry eyes.
Revisit your dry eye treatment
If you find that summer aggravates your dry eyes, we may need to review your medication and prescribe a different formula of artificial tears. If you take oral antihistamines for allergies, we can explore alternatives.
Drink plenty of water
Sweating helps keep you cool in the summer heat, but sweating also leads to dehydration. When your whole body is dehydrated, it means you also have less fluid for tears. You’ll stay hydrated, maintain optimal tears, and fight dry eyes by drinking plenty of water or other non-caffeinated fluids.
If you need help with dry eyes, call the team at Atlanta Vision Cataract and Laser Center or schedule an appointment online.