Eye protectors: Provide patients relief in winter, spring, summer and fall

January 16, 2019
2018 AOA Eye-Q Survey: Although most Americans know UV radiation can be harmful on overcast days, less than a third regularly wear sunglasses on those days.
Eye protectors: Provide patients relief in winter, spring, summer and fall

With major winter storms in the near future, patients may be feeling the effects in their eyes of the dry and wet environmental conditions.

Eyes can be aggravated by such environmental conditions as warm air blasting from the vents in cars, offices and homes, bitterly cold winds whipping at our faces and even wet, moldy spaces. Whether it's dry eye, allergies or other aggravating eye conditions, doctors of optometry can provide relief. That's the message AOA President Samuel D. Pierce, O.D., will carry to an interview scheduled for Jan. 25 on Doctor Radio's nutrition and exercise show hosted by Samantha Heller from noon to 2 p.m. (EST).

Protecting your eyes—from harmful ultraviolet light reflecting off of snow-covered surfaces in winter, for instance—is a potential topic during his interview.

"There's a large variety of issues involving the eyes to deal with in the winter," Dr. Pierce says.

Dry eye symptoms

According to the National Eye Institute, dry eye symptoms include:

  • Stinging or burning eyes.
  • A sandy or gritty feeling in the eye.
  • A stringy discharge from the eye.
  • Pain and redness of the eye.
  • Episodes of blurred vision.
  • Heavy eyelids.
  • Inability to cry when emotionally stressed.
  • Discomfort wearing contact lenses, depending on the style and fit.
  • Decreased tolerance of reading, working on the computer, or any activity that requires sustained visual attention.
  • Eye fatigue.
  • Episodes of excess tears following very dry eye periods.

Seeing your doctor of optometry

Doctors of optometry can provide patients with a number of treatment options that can help them conserve tears (tiny silicone or gel-like plugs), increase tear production (eye drops and omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplements) and decrease inflammation around the eyes' surface (eye drops or ointments, warm compresses and lid massage, and eyelid cleaners).

Often over-the-counter artificial tears—which may contain an oily mix to help replace the layer of tear film—are recommended. Doctors also may look at patients' medications (for blood pressure, pain and anti-depression) because they may exacerbate dry eye.

Patients also can reduce their own discomfort by:

  • Blinking regularly.
  • Increasing the humidity in the air.
  • Wearing sunglasses.
  • Taking nutritional supplements.
  • Drinking plenty of fluids.
  • Performing the 20/20/20 rule for digital eyestrain..

Protecting your eyes against UV radiation

Perhaps one of the more overlooked protections in winter are sunglasses and goggles. Fresh snow can reflect nearly 80% of UV radiation from the sun. According to results from the 2018 American Eye-Q Survey by the AOA, 74% of respondents recognized that snow and ice reflect UV rays more than most natural substances on earth. But a third of survey respondents, who ski, snowboard or hike in the snow, reported that they rarely or never took the precaution of wearing sunglasses while doing these activities.

Further, 84% of respondents reported that they knew that harmful UV radiation is present even on gloomy, cloudy days, yet 28% of respondents regularly wore sunglasses those days.

The AOA recommends wearing high-quality sunglasses that adequately protect your eyes by blocking out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B rays and screening out 75-90% of visible light. It also recommends patients regularly see their doctors of optometry for a comprehensive eye exam to monitor their eye health.

Go to AOA Marketplace to view an newly updated patient education pamphlet, "Protect Your Eyes from the Sun."

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