stop watering eyes

Why are my eyes watering? Expert reveals why our eyes water in winter and how to prevent it

Thursday 29th Feb 2024 |

A common issue in the winter months is watery eyes, which can make your make up run and your vision blur when out and about. But what causes this to happen and is there anything that can be done to prevent it?

Nimmi Mistry, professional services optician at Vision Direct, explains the causes of watery eyes in winter and what can be done to manage or prevent this.

Why do my eyes keep watering?

There are a few reasons why you may experience watery eyes during the colder months of the year. The first being due to the weather.

The cold winter air tends to be drier, holding less moisture than warm air. This drop in humidity enhances the evaporation of our tears and leads to our eyes feeling more irritated. Our reflex mechanism is to produce more tears, which are also triggered to provide protection and relief against harsh winds which, this year, have been more prevalent, due to frequency of stormy weather.

In addition, colder temperatures mean we use central heating or fires more to heat our homes and workplaces, further removing moisture from the air and increasing the irritation for our eyes.

stop watering eyes

Other reasons for watery eyes during the winter months include colds, flus and covid cases which are on a rise this time of year. Such cases may give rise to conjunctivitis, an inflammation of the conjunctival region of the eye. This thin mucous membrane lines the inner surface of the eyelid and covers the white of the eye. Commonly occurring in people of all ages, and affecting one or both eyes, conjunctivitis is most prevalent in its highly contagious viral form, which easily spreads through droplet contact from infected individuals or objects. There’s no treatment for this type of conjunctivitis but using artificial tears (eye drops) and cold compresses can provide temporary relief.

Eye strain can also be a cause of watery eyes, although not exclusively a wintertime problem, due the longer periods of dark during these months and the potential of more time spent indoors in front of screens. An increase in screen time combined with reduced blinking due to a need for greater concentration irritates the eyes, bringing about an increase in tear production

How do I stop my eyes from watering?

The way to remedy or prevent watery eyes will depend on the cause but there are some safe ways to help alleviate this irritating symptom.

1.           Add moisture to the air

The dry heat in the winter months can cause the humidity levels in the air to drop increasing the onset of dry eyes. Add moisture back into the air with a humidifier to provide relief and prevent further issues. If this is too costly you can place a bowl of water under working radiators to work similarly without using as much energy.

2.           Stay hydrated

It may seem like an obvious tip, but it is vital to stay hydrated to keep your eyes moisturised. Adults should be drinking at least 2 litres of water per day (around 6-8 glasses). When you are hydrated, so are your eyes.

It is important to mention that coffee, tea, and alcohol are diuretics which means they remove water from the body, although most are mild diuretics it is best to ensure you are consuming the recommended water in addition to these drinks.

3.           Use eye drops

Another way to ensure your eyes are moisturised is by using eye drops. Otherwise known as artificial tears, these drops provide relief from symptoms of dry eyes, especially in colder weather, through providing lubrication

The eye drops can be purchased online, in supermarkets or in high-street pharmacies without a prescription. Be sure to consult a professional if in doubt prior to purchasing

4.           Be strict with screen time

If dry eye is the root cause of your watery eyes, then excessive screen time will only exacerbate the symptoms. Be strict with screen time, being sure to take regular screen breaks, especially when working. You can also incorporate the 20-20-20 rule into your daily routine to avoid digital eye strain and dry eyes, this involves looking away from your screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds at an object that is 20 feet away.

5.           Do some eye exercises

There is a range of non-vigorous eye exercises that can help alleviate the symptoms of dryness. For example:

– Blinking consciously: This involves keeping your eyes closed for half a second before reopening. Repeating this 20 times will help the eye rebuild its natural hydration.

– Palming: Place the palms of your hands slightly cupped over the eyes, without applying pressure. Let your fingertips overlap, resting on the forehead and try to not let any light through and breathe deeply for a minute.

Adding these exercises to your daily routine will not only help in keep your eyes hydrated but will provide a sense of relaxation

TikTok Hack warning: Can I use Vaseline under my eyes to stop them watering?

As with many issues, social media users share some “hacks” to help watery eyes, the most recent being using petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, under the eyes to prevent watering. Although petroleum jelly is a great barrier for hay fever when used under the nose, putting this substance close to the eyes could make matters a lot worse if not correctly applied.

Safely applying Vaseline under the eyes, by ensuring no direct contact is made with the eye, and hands are washed prior to its application is perfectly acceptable. What is not advisable is applying Vaseline near the corner of the eye or its waterline. This not only causes temporary blurring of the vision but will cause irritation and unwanted tearing.

You should avoid this hack altogether if you are a contact lens wearer. Petroleum-based products like Vaseline can adhere to contact lenses, smearing the lenses and leading to reduced visibility. This can make it difficult to see clearly through your lenses. There’s also the possibility of infection, if hands are not washed prior to applying or a previously opened Vaseline tub is used.

Vaseline is hydrophobic (does not mix with water) which is why it is commonly used to prevent the smudging of eye make-up. For anything else, it is recommended Vaseline is not used, but instead to implement the tips outlined above to soothe irritated eyes.

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