Why do my eyes water more in winter?
Watery eyes are often triggered by the likes of hayfever, or a small irritant like dust. In the winter, however, a new set of circumstances can cause the problem to arise. This includes:
- Harsh weather conditions
- Central heating
- Watching lots of television
Read on to find out more about why these things cause the eyes to water more in winter.
Watery eyes or dry eyes?
Watery eyes are generally caused by one of two things: your eyes producing too many tears, or your eyes being unable to drain tears properly.
Over-production of tears is usually caused by external, environmental factors, and in the winter a combination of these factors come together to make watery eyes much more likely.
In fact, these factors typically cause dry eyes which surprisingly enough, are often the primary cause of watery eyes. Sounds confusing – but bear with me!
The eyes are protected by a layer of moisture. As this dries out, the tear ducts end up producing too many tears in order to compensate for the external factor (like weather or allergies) that's drying out your eyes. These tears can then begin to spill out of the eye, causing watery eyes.
What causes watery eyes in winter?
So, this is how your eyes can become watery. But why might watery eyes seem worse during the winter months?
Harsh weather conditions
You'll probably be used to applying extra moisturiser to your skin in the winter to stop it drying out, but it's easy to forget that the same weather can dry out your eyes too!
Colder, windier and all-round harsher weather causes tears to evaporate more quickly, sending your tear ducts into overdrive in an attempt to keep your eyes protected.
And don't forget about snow! If you're lucky enough to get some snow this year, the sun can reflect off this, causing significant glare that can actually damage your eyes and make them water in the same way that bright summer sunlight can.
Not only is the weather a problem during the winter, but so too is what we do to avoid it.
To escape from the cold, we tend to wrap up in front of our TVs or laptops instead of venturing outside. So, here's our next set of problems.
Central heating in your home and office will create drier air. Again, to prevent the eyes becoming too dry, extra tears will then be produced.
To add to this, we tend to blink less while focusing on close-up, static objects, such a television or laptop. This can lead to dry eyes since it is the act of blinking that spreads moisture across the eye's surface.
If you also experience sneezing, itchy eyes and coughing, it may be that you have an allergy to dust mites or mould - which can be triggered by spending more time indoors where these allergens are more common!
And let's not forget about the extra time we spend in our cars! During this season we use our car heaters more frequently, both to keep warm and to defrost our windscreens. This will also dry out your eyes, especially if you direct the air stream directly at your face!
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Who is most affected by watery eyes?
This problem can affect anyone, but it is particularly common in older people. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, watery eyes can be caused by either the over-production of tears, or a problem draining these tears properly. Unfortunately, older people can experience both of these problems.
As we grow older, the eyelid tissues begin to relax which means that they do not always lie close to the eye, so tears cannot reach the draining ducts. So, not only will older people find that their eyes might water more during the cold weather, but also their eyes may not be able to drain all these extra tears properly, making the problem even worse!
In addition, people who work or exercise outside are likely to experience watery eyes as they are more exposed to the elements.
How do you stop your eyes from watering in winter?
While cold weather can be a problem, spending less time outside probably isn't the answer – most of us already spend very little time outside in the winter, and the exercise, fresh air and natural sunlight are all good for you!
However, there are steps you can take to reduce the effects of the cold weather while you're outside.
If you're exercising outside in the winter, a pair of goggles or sunglasses can help to stop the cold air from reaching your eyes.
If you're taking part in snow sports, or are spending a lot of time outside in the snow, remember to protect your eyes from snow glare by wearing sunglasses or goggles with UV protection.
Try eye drops
I'd recommend getting your hands on some good eye drops. While adding extra moisture to watery eyes may seem counter-productive, the drops will help to stop your eyes drying out in the first place which, as I discussed earlier, is often the cause of watery eyes.
I recommend our moisturising Eye Drops, as these contain the herb Euphrasia which has been used as far back at the 14th century for eye health.They can be used while wearing contact lenses, and the unique bottle keeps the drops sterile so there's no need for chemical preservatives.
Let in moisture
Focus on the time you spend inside, too. Don't worry, I won't tell you to stop using the heating in your house! However, opening a window for a few minutes every hour or so can really help to let some moisture in. You can also buy a humidifier which will restore moisture to the air.
When watching TV or using a computer, try to make a conscious effort to blink more. Some people find that putting a post-it note reminder next to their TV or computer screen really helps with this.
Change the settings on your heater
In your car, try directing the heaters to your feet and, if you need to de-fog your windscreen, try opening the window for a couple of minutes instead of using the heaters/air conditioning.
Should I see a doctor about watery eyes?
If any of your symptoms are worrying you, then make an appointment to see a GP or an optician. If you experience pain or blurred vision in one or both of your eyes, then seek urgent medical assistance.