How to care for your eyes in extremely cold weather during polar vortex

Posted at 10:38 AM, Jan 31, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-31 11:30:43-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Frostbite and hypothermia aren't the only safety concerns to watch out for during the recent polar vortex in Michigan.

According the Beaumont, extremely cold temps can pose a possible danger to your eyes.

“Cold winter winds cause moisture in the eyes to evaporate and the eyes tear excessively to compensate,” explained Andrea Nielsen, O.D., Beaumont Eye Institute. “On average, the eyes blink 15 - 20 times per minute, distributing the tears and keeping the surface of the eye moist helping to protect the cornea. Warm body temperature also helps protect the eyes from the cold.”

Reflections bouncing off snow can even increase ultraviolet exposure and cause light sensitivity to your eyes.

“Too much UV exposure can cause inflammation of the cornea, a condition called keratitis,” said Dr. Nielsen. “Glasses, sunglasses or goggles with UV coatings protect the eyes and the skin surrounding the eyes from UV and shield the eyes from the wind and frigid air.”

Being indoors can also cause potential irritation to the eye. Researchers say cold temps mean turning up the heat, which dries out the air and your eyes.

Some quick tips to protect your eyes:

  • Wear your glasses, sunglasses or goggles as a shield.
  • Use lubrication drop to reduce dry eyes.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Turn on a humidifier to increase moisture in the air.
If the cold weather has you cooped up indoors for an extended period of time and you’ve spent your day binge-watching Netflix, your eyes can tire from eyestrain. Fortunately, eyestrain can be minimized with a helpful trick called the “20/20/20 Rule” - for every 20 minutes watching, take a 20 second break and look 20 feet away.