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Quick Survival Guide for Wearing Contacts in Winter

Young family in snow

It’s getting colder outside - winter is coming! While winter can be beautiful, it also stands out as the harshest season. There are heavy skies, snowstorms and ice on the ground. Winter also calls for layers of woollen clothes and endless mugs of hot chocolate.

There may not be an ideal season for wearing contact lenses. But it can be especially difficult to wear your contacts in the winter.

Every change in the weather and environment affects your eyes in a different way. In fact, during winter, the air is much drier than any other season. It’s this dryness that can be especially tough on your eyes.

Thankfully, there are some things you can do to keep your lenses moist and your eyes healthy and happy! Read on to discover six key strategies for fighting winter dryness.

What Makes Wearing Contacts Worse in the Winter?

For your contact lenses to be comfortable, your eyes must maintain a certain level of moisture. This is why optometrists often conduct a tear film test during eye exams. This test determines whether your tear ducts are functioning properly. It also assesses if you can produce enough moisture to keep contacts hydrated. If you don’t produce enough moisture, then contact lenses may not be suitable for you.

In the winter, our eyes struggle to make enough moisture. Outside, the air is dry and cold, while indoors, the air is dry and hot. As if that’s not enough to contend with, our bodies also tend to be less hydrated during winter months. Under these conditions, many contact lens wearers develop seasonal dry eye.

With dry eye, you may feel that you have grit in your eyes or experience a burning sensation. Sometimes, dry eye can be painful and wearing your lenses becomes unbearable. It is possible to stop the progression of dry eye in its tracks by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

1) Avoid Dry Environments

In the season of indoor heating, avoiding dry environments can be easier said than done.

Indoor heating is notorious for causing dry eyes. Avoid spending time standing or sitting close to direct sources of heat, such as hot air vents and fireplaces. If you need to move your desk to a different part of the office, or pull your armchair over to the other side of your living room, then so be it! Wearing an extra layer of clothing in a slightly colder space will also spare your eyes.

Also consider investing in a humidifier for your home, office and anywhere else you spend a lot of time. Humidifiers help maintain the correct amount of moisture in the air, taking some of the pressure off your tear ducts.

2) Stay Hydrated

young woman outside in the snow holding a hot drink in a mug

Most of us drink less water in the winter months. To keep our body temperature up, we consume more caffeinated hot drinks like tea and coffee. Unfortunately, your favourite mug of warm goodness can dehydrate you further. To avoid drying out, make a concentrated effort to drink more than the recommended daily intake of water. Eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can get your hands on. You want to get as much water from as many sources as possible.

Don’t mistake watery eyes for a sign that you’re adequately hydrated. Irritation makes your eyes water, and this has nothing to do with how hydrated you are. Dryness stimulates the tear ducts, causing them to go into overdrive and generate more moisture than you need. Again, this dehydrates you further. It may sound counter-intuitive, but the best way to reduce watery eyes is to use eye drops or artificial tears. As long as you use drops that are safe for contacts, you’ll be just fine!

3) Wear Sunglasses

young woman drinking tea and wearing sunglasses in winter

UV damage is as much of a threat during the winter as it is during the summer. The sunlight reflecting off the snow can be as damaging as when you’re lounging poolside, sans glasses.

Protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful rays with a decent pair of sunglasses that filter at least 98% of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays. Aside from filtering light, sunglasses also protect your eyes from the grit and dust carried by the wind on blustery winter days. Sunglasses can also act as a barrier between cold winter winds and your eyes’ delicate surface. If you buy sunglasses with a prescription you can also give your eyes a needed break from contact lenses.

4) Visit Your Optometrist

If you’re experiencing discomfort when wearing contact lenses during the winter, it’s best to visit your optometrist. They will perform tests to determine if the discomfort is due to an underlying condition or disease. Once your optometrist has ruled out any other causes, they can offer advice on how to handle the winter dryness. Usually, over-the-counter eye drops are the first suggestion. If there’s no improvement, they might give you prescription eye drops. If these drops don’t do the trick, then it’s time to consider changing your lenses.

5) Consider Changing Your Lenses

Different lenses are made from different materials. Lenses made from silicone hydrogel are most effective in maintaining the moisture levels in your eyes. This is because silicone hydrogel lenses don’t allow water to evaporate as readily as lenses made from other materials.

CooperVision’s Proclear lenses contain phosphorylcholine, which attracts moisture to the lenses. These lenses give you increased comfort if you suffer from dry eyes during winter.

During winter months, it’s a good idea to stick with lenses that have a shorter wear schedule. Changing your lenses regularly is the simplest way to stop them from drying out. Swapping your lenses out weekly or daily allows them to maintain your eyes’ moisture levels. This reduces irritation and increases comfort. Many people make the switch to daily disposable lenses, like Focus Dailies, during winter. Opening a fresh pair of lenses each day minimises the risk of developing seasonal dry eye.

6) Take a Break From Lenses

happy man wearing glasses in snow

If you’ve tried all the survival strategies above and none seem to be working, it might be time to give your eyes a break from lenses. For example, try wearing your lenses only while you’re at work and your glasses at home. Disposable lenses can be very convenient for making the swap between glasses and lenses. With no contact lens solution or storage case needed, you can peel back the lid on a new pair of sterilised lenses on the go.

Enjoy the Winter Season!

Small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on your eyes and your overall health. You now have all the info to ensure that you enjoy your contacts in the winter season. Be sure to apply these tips as you and your loved ones stay toasty warm! If wearing contacts in the winter makes your eyes uncomfortable, always seek advice from your optometrist.

Check out our blog for more information on how to care for your contacts all the time.

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