As the weather gets colder we often think of wrapping up warm and taking precautions to protect our skin, but many of us underestimate the importance of protecting our eye health. Late nights, colder weather and cosy nights in with the central heating on can all take their toll on our eye health, with 'Dry Eye' being one of the resulting symptoms.
Research by eye health experts Scope Ophthalmics, reveals that 3 in 5 people are suffering from multiple symptoms of dry eyes including eye fatigue, excessive watering, a feeling of grittiness or blurred vision, and a further 1 in 3 claim that having dry eyes impacts the amount of time they spend doing the things they enjoy, such as spending time outdoors, reading a book and watching a film.
Julian Stevens, an eye specialist based at Moorfields Eye Hospital says "winter is the worst time of year for dry eyes. Eyes can feel gritty and dry, but they can also become watery as dry spots occur on the front of the eye. Have you ever wondered why our eyes start to stream after a cold winter's walk? This is because the wind can be so drying that our eyes produce watery tears which just run off our eyes. Identifying the issue is a key step to healthier and more comfortable eyes."
Here are ten top tips for protecting your eye health this winter by Amy Liddell, Nutritionist & Eye Health Specialist at Scope Ophthalmics:
- Get enough H20! Christmas celebrations often mean indulging in one too many alcoholic drinks which dehydrates and slows our blink rate so we end up with dry eyes. The other thing that happens when we celebrate with a little too much alcohol is that we often sleep with our eyes slightly open causing a dry crescent to form along the bottom of the eye. Drinking a glass of water for every alcoholic drink can help stave off the dehydrating effects and help to reduce puffy and red eyes the morning after!
- Boost your intake of antioxidants. We can all be guilty of burning the candle at both ends during the festive season, and late nights, poor diet and lack of exercise can cause oxidative stress on the body which has been linked to dry eye. Incorporating a rainbow of fresh fruit and vegetables in to your diet, as well as dark leafy greens like kale, spinach and chard may actually help slow down the process of oxidation and have been shown to reduce the risk of macular degeneration.
- Enjoy more salmon and oily fish. Omega-3s, the fatty acids found in oily fish such as sardines, salmon and tuna steak will give your overall eye health a great boost and have been shown to relieve dry eye symptoms. Try a high quality supplement like Omega Eye which is rich inomega-3 fats EPA and DHA -just 4 capsules a day provides the same amount of omega 3's as 9 tins of tuna! (RRP £82.50 for 3 months available from www.ScopeOmegaHealth.co.uk)
- Have a digital detox. Bad habits when using computers are some of the most common reasons for irritable, dry eyes. It's caused by concentration and not blinking as often as we should so it's important to "think and blink" and to take regular screen breaks to give your eyes a much-needed break.
- Be savvy with make-up. It's party season so we all want to look our best, but did you know that make-up can be a trigger for dry eye? Try to use hypoallergenic and ophthalmologist-tested products and instead of eye shadow powder, try a cream eye shadow instead. For those who truly suffer, keep your eye area clear as often as possible and only apply eye makeup on special occasions.
- Swap to Green tea. This antioxidant-rich tea has an acquired taste, so if you're not a fan, try starting with one that has a lighter flavour and working your way up to the strong organic variety. Research has shown that the anti-oxidants in tea are absorbed by different parts of the eye and can have a protective effect.
- Relax with an eye massage. A simple eyelid massage will stimulate the tear glands and help push the oil in your tears around the eye. Placing a warm washcloth over closed eyes and gently massage the upper eyelid against the brow bone for 5 to 10 seconds is not only soothing for eyes but relaxing too.
- Don't forget your sunglasses! We all know about the dangers of UV for the skin, but it can also have a drying effect on our eyes. Even on a bright winter's day it's a good tip to make sure you wear sunglasses with UV protection to protect your eyes as the damage is often underestimated.
- Drops, drops, drops! Finding an eye drop that is preservative free, such as new Hycosan Fresh™ for mild dry eye (£8.95 available from Boots) is important, as preservatives can cause further aggravation to eyes that are already feeling sore. Hycosan Fresh™ contains all natural ingredients including Euphrasia (Eyebright), a plant based extract that has been shown to reduce irritation associated with dry eyes and Sodium Hyaluronate which is known for its hydrating properties, ensuring eyes stay lubricated for longer.
- All eyes on potassium. Potassium and other mineral levels can be lower in people who have dry eye symptoms, so it's important to boost your intake. The best food sources of potassium include almonds, pecans, bananas, raisins, dates, figs and avocados. Adding them to salads or snacking on them throughout the day is a healthy way to boost your intake!