Air Temperature and Humidity Are Major Factors in Winter Dry Eye

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Tips from Bio Logic Aqua Research Founder Sharon Kleyne on how education can help prevent winter dry eye.

Dry eye complaints are the number one reason for eye doctor visits in the United States and winter is the season with the most dry eye complaints. According to water and eye researcher Sharon Kleyne, education is the first step in preventing winter dry eye. Air temperature and humidity or atmospheric water vapor content, says Kleyne, are the most important environmental factors responsible for winter dry eye. Other factors, such as air pollution, wind chill and indoor environments also play a role.

Sharon Kleyne hosts the globally syndicated Sharon Kleyne Hour Power of Water® radio show on VoiceAmerica and Apple iTunes. Kleyne is Founder of Bio Logic Aqua Research, a fresh water and health research, education and product development center. The Research Center’s global signature product, Nature’s Tears® EyeMist® provides a personal humidifying mist that prevents dry eye by instantly supplementing lost tear film water.

“Dry eye,” according to Kleyne, is the loss of a portion of the water content in the protective “basal tear film” covering the eye. The tear film is normally 98% water. Should this drop, for example, to 96%, says Kleyne, quoting WD Mathers, MD (see end of article), dry eye symptoms such as blurred vision, itching and burning eyes, eye fatigue and headaches may be experienced.

Kleyne notes that environmental dry eye resulting from external conditions is by far the most prevalent type of dry eye. According to Kleyne, dry eye can also be caused by illness, medication, allergies, tear gland dysfunction, autoimmune or inflammatory disorders, age, hormonal flux, menopause, denervation, contact lenses, LASIK surgery, etc.

Winter is dry eye season, Kleyne explains, because cooler air can’t hold as much atmospheric water vapor – also called “humidity” – as warmer air. The lower the air’s water vapor content, the greater the tendency of liquid water to evaporate into the atmosphere. This increased evaporative pressure, says Kleyne, affects lakes, puddles, lawns – and the tear film. When the tear film loses water to evaporation, dry eye symptoms can result.

Wind, especially cold wind, increases evaporative pressure on the skin and tear film. According to Kleyne, wind blows away the thin layer of warm, moist air that usually forms at the surface of the skin, face and eyelids. That’s why windy air feels colder than calm air.

Air pollution, Kleyne notes, increases the dehydrating effect of air on eyes no matter what the weather. Pollutants can dehydrate in two ways. First, they can be directly dehydrating to the ocular surface. Second, common airborne pollutants, such as carbon black and sulfur dioxide, tend to attract and accumulate the air’s water vapor molecules. The resulting water droplets, formed around pollution particles, often fall back to the ground without reaching the upper atmosphere’s cloud accumulation zone. That’s why large areas air pollution tend to have dryer air and less rainfall.        

Dry eye also increases in winter, according to Kleyne, because more time is spent indoors, in rooms with insulated walls and windows and forced-air heating and cooling. Re-circulating the air can lower the humidity and increase airborne bacteria. Low humidity, dry wind and airborne bacteria are all dehydration factors.

To avoid winter dry eye, Kleyne suggests keeping yourself warm and hydrated, bundling up and protecting skin and eyes from wind.

According to Kleyne, if eyes are well hydrated, losing a small amount of water to evaporation is less likely to cause problems. Kleyne suggests drinking eight glasses of water a day, in addition to other fluid intake. Kleyne also recommends keeping a couple windows slightly open in winter – especially in the bathroom - to let in fresh air. Other suggestions: House plants and bowls of water will raise a room’s humidity and placing baffles over forced-air vents will prevent them from blowing directly onto the face and eyes. Frequent baths are also beneficial.

According to Kleyne, her company’s Nature’s Tears® EyeMist® product is specifically designed to supplement tear film moisture lost as a result of winter conditions.

Source: WD Mathers, MD, Tear Film and Treatment of Dry Eye Disease, ©2004 Funded and sponsored by Bio-Logic Aqua Research and Nature’s Tears® EyeMist®.

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Mikaylah Roggasch
Bio Logic Aqua Research-Rogue Media
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