My eyes have been driving me crazy lately -- is it just me, or are other people noticing this, too? [Ed. note: Not just you. Tears stream down my face during my morning commute!] Maybe it's because I've spent so much time snowboarding and running in the cold, but I feel like I've got a bad case of spring allergies way before spring's even here. Then I got this news from Mark Ewald, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology at Vanderbilt University: The end of winter can be one of the worst times of year for our baby blues -- or, in my case, browns. Now I see -- through itchy, red eyes, that is.
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It turns out, says Ewald, that months of cold, dry air can really take their toll on our peepers, especially if we wear contacts or are already prone to allergies or dry eye. And eye irritation can get even worse when winter begins to transition into spring and early-blooming plants start to bloom, hence why I'm all blurry-eyed now. Plus, windy days increase the risk of flying particles getting in there, while too much time looking at bright white snow (on a ski mountain, for example) can burn your corneas -- a condition known as photokeratitis, or snow blindness -- resulting in painful and teary eyes several hours later.
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Luckily, Ewald says many of these symptoms are preventable. Here are some of his suggestions for keeping our eyes healthy and looking their best, well into warmer weather.
- Use OTC artificial tears to ease the irritation of persistent dry eyes.
- Run a humidifier indoors to moisten the dry air pumped out by your heating system.
- Rock a pair of sunglasses (with UV protection!) -- even if it's cloudy -- to protect against both wind and the sun's harsh rays. And don't hit the slopes without a good pair of goggles.
- Don't rub your eyes! Rubbing can scratch your cornea, or cause inflammation that disrupts tear production. Instead, blink repeatedly to redistribute fluid and flush out any irritants that may be lurking there.
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