Kristi Sharma, B. Optom

Intern Optometrist, Sri Sankaradeva Nethralaya Guwahati, Assam, India


Ocular dryness during cold weather

Ocular dryness is one of the biggest ocular concerns arising with the onset of winter. While most of the time people take adequate measures to protect their skin and hair during this winter season, what people often oversee is the fact that our eyes suffer the problem equally. With winter gradually dawning upon us, one complaint that gets frequently recorded by vision science professionals while in the clinic or attending any eye screening camps is patients seek solution to excessive watering of eyes while traveling or just being outdoors. Office workers often talk about how they experience symptoms of dryness in eyes after spending a significant amount of time in a day inside air-conditioned office environment. This issue is not limited to office workers, as a Trainee Optometrist, I personally experience similar issues.

What causes winter dryness in eyes?

It is known that humidity significantly drops with the drop in temperature. During winter, the air becomes colder and drier, causing the lipid layer of the tear film to shrink more. (1) This exposes the aqueous layer causing excessive watering while being outdoors or travelling with the eyes being exposed directly to wind. While being indoors doesn’t completely solve the problem as using heaters indoor exposes the eyes to dry heat.(2) Not just in winters, even people spending major part of the day in air-conditioned environment can have increased risk of dryness and grittiness in the eyes, hence, this has become a persistent issue.

How to protect our eyes?

Preventive Measures

Hydration is the first step towards combating this issue. Alternatively, using protective glasses or hats with a visor can help protect the eyes while travelling. Also, direct exposure to heat or cold wind into our eyes should be avoided. It is important to blink adequately to uniformly spread the tear film over the eye.


Lubricating eye drops or ointments can also prove to give soothing effects. People wearing contact lenses must remember to properly clean their lenses to avoid any eye infections. In case irritation is more severe, avoiding the use of Contact lens is also recommended. Food that are rich in vitamin A, C, E and omega 3 fatty acids such as fish can help improve the function of Meibomian glands and thus retain optimum level of lipid layer. (3) In case the condition prevails or worsens, it is important to consult an eye doctor and follow appropriate measures.

Take home message

Dryness experienced in winters is not any dangerous disease; however, implementing small day-to-day changes/additions/staying aware will help to gradually eliminate this problem.



  1. Butovich IA, Arciniega JC, Wojtowicz JC. Meibomian lipid films and the impact of temperature. Investigative ophthalmology & visual science. 2010 Nov 1;51(11):5508-18.
  2. How to Fight Dry, Itchy Eyes This Winter by Robert Preidt,[Last accessed 19th Dec 2021 at 18:37 AEDT]
  3. How to prevent dry eyes in the winter months by Piedmont Eye Care, October 11, 2018;[Last Accessed 19th Dec 2021 at 18:40 AEDT]