Eyes Watering from the Winter Weather? The Burn and Sting of Dry Eye Season is early this year! 

Winter has started early this year bringing below normal temps to our already frigid state and colder temperatures usually equate to low humidity.  Furnaces, fireplaces, space heaters, car heaters and other heat sources further reduce humidity and literally suck the moisture right out of your eyes. Redness, burning, stinging and foreign body sensations are some of the most common dry eye symptoms which can be made even worse by staring (not blinking) at your computer 12 hours per day.

Another common symptom of dry eyes is ironically watering eyes (epiphora).  As strange as this may seem, the most common cause of a watering, tearful, running eye is underlying dryness and here is the mechanism behind the problem:

Your lacrimal (tear) system produces two types of tears. The first type are your normal lubricating tears which are continuously secreted by glands under your eyelids. The second type are your reflex tears which are released in volumes when you cry or get something in your eye.  Ideally, your normal tears will keep your eyes well lubricated and comfortable. However, if they are inadequate and the surface of the eye becomes dry and irritated, the reflex tears will be released as a protective mechanism for the eye. Since the tear drainage system cannot handle the sudden volume of tears, the extra tears often roll over the eyelids resulting in a watering eye. Hence the watering eye is a simple plumbing problem similar to overflowing a sink. The reflex tears can also be triggered by other eye irritating conditions such as bright light, wind, or other sources of dry air moving over the surface of the eyes.

What to do?

Increase humidity with a portable humidifier or a furnace mounted humidifier. Or move to Florida??

Stay hydrated and drink plenty of water!  Dry air also causes dehydration which decreases tear production.

Lubricate, lubricate, and lubricate your eyes. Not all lubrication eyedrops are created equal!

– Avoid all forms of Visine which temporarily “takes the red out” but makes your eyes more dry causing more discomfort.

-Lubrication drops in bottles can give temporary relief to dry eye symptoms but any bottle of drops contains preservative which can further irritate and dry the eyes. This is especially true of generic lubrication drops.

Preservative free drops lubrication drops in disposable tubes will give the best relief for dry eye symptoms. Our recommended drop of choice is Retaine which can be purchased at our clinic. It is best to use Retaine several times per day before the eyes become excessively dry and also before going to bed at night.

Blink More. While performing visually demanding tasks such as computer work, blink rates drop off significantly causing poor tear circulation and tear evaporation. Set an hourly alarm on your phone to remind you to take a break, blink several times, and use a drop of Retaine.

Steroids. These drops will make any irritated eye feel better but are only used in extreme cases of dry eye as side effects can occur.

Restasis and Xiidra.  These are prescription eyedrops which encourage increased tear production in more extreme cases of dry eye also, but are very expensive and take several months to reach full effect.

Scleral Contact Lenses. These new contact lenses completely cover the surface of the cornea, preventing tear evaporation and dry eye.

Dilation/Irrigation Procedure. In cases of a watering eye that is determined to be caused by a blocked tear drain (puncta) and not dry eye, we can perform an inoffice procedure called a “dilation/irrigation.” This involves widening the puncta and forcing sterile saline through the tear drainage pipes in an effort to clear any possible blockages.  Roto Rooter for the lacrimal system!

If you would like to discuss your dry eye concerns or have further question, please contact our office at 952-562-8116.

Merry Christmas!

Dr. Steve