How the Weather Affects Your Eyes

You are probably blaming all your eye problems on your computer screens but even environmental factors can wreck havoc with your peepers. Here are such conditions -


Dry Eyes

Burning, itching, feeling of grittiness—these symptoms may indicate dry eyes, a condition in which the eyes don’t produce enough tears or the right quality of tears. This condition is often worse in winter because of the dry, cold air and the dryness that comes from heaters.

Your eyes need to stay lubricated to see, which doesn’t go well with cold, dry winter air. The wind and lack of moisture leads your eyes to tear up, trying to keep themselves at max visibility and minimum discomfort.


Recent research has found that your eyelash length also plays a role in how much you tear up. Lashes at one-third your eye’s width best keep tears from evaporating (meaning less reflexive waterworks), with any longer funneling air in and creating more irritation, and any shorter allowing greater evaporation of tears—triggering a flood of them to keep you seeing. Options for relief include artificial tears, dietary changes, prescription eye drops or even surgery in the most complicated cases.



Photokeratitis is a painful eye condition that occurs when your eye is exposed to invisible rays of energy called ultraviolet (UV) rays, either from the sun or from a man-made source.

Photokeratitis is like having a sunburned eye. This condition affects the thin surface layer of the cornea — the clear front window of the eye — and the conjunctiva, which is the cell layer covering the inside of the eyelids and the whites of the eye.

Photokeratitis can be caused by sun reflection from sand, water, ice and snow. It can also happen if you stare at the sun, such as watching a solar eclipse directly without using a special device. A solar eclipse can also cause a burn to the retina, which is long lasting and more serious than temporary corneal damage.

There are also many man-made sources of ultraviolet light, including tanning lamps and tanning beds, as well as arc welding. Wearing proper eye protection can prevent damage to the eyes from UV rays.


3. Snow Blindness

Snow blindness is akin to sunburn on eyeball and is an extreme form of Photokeratitis, a burn on the cornea. When sunlight shines on snow, the rays reflect off the white snow and are absorbed by your face, with a portion of that light traveling directly into your eyes. Excessive UV exposure (particularly UVB) can damage the outer cells of the eyeball leading to snow blindness. It causes intense pain, excessive tears, eyelid twitching and discomfort from bright light, and constricted pupils. Fresh snow can reflect 80% of UV radiation while a sandy beach will only reflect about 15% of UV radiation.



Polarized sunglasses often block most UV, but be sure to wear lenses with larger surface area to further reduce the amount of UV that makes it through to your eyes. When it comes to ski goggles, be sure they fit snug on your face so that no light filters in. Any time you are skiing or snowboarding (or spending an extended period on the snow) try to wear goggles to reduce the amount of overall eye exposure to UV.