It’s amazing to me that almost everyone winterizes their home to get ready for chilly weather—but no one ever thinks about winterizing one of the most important parts of their body: their eyes.


That’s why I’m dedicating this blog to exactly what you need to do, now, to help keep your eyes healthy—and your vision sharp—for years to come.

Sunglasses

Wear sunglasses.
Just because the sky is overcast doesn’t mean you don’t need your shades. The sun’s rays can still penetrate through the clouds—and sunglasses can also protect your eyes from harsh winds. But nowhere is eyewear more important than when you’re around snow—whether you’re shoveling the white stuff off your sidewalk or skiing/snowboarding. The snow and ice reflects nearly 80 percent of the sun’s rays—and can literally be blinding: hours of staring at the snow or ice, sans sunglasses or sun-protective goggles, can cause a temporary but painful inflammation of the cornea known as photokeratitis (like a sunburn of the eyes). Symptoms include red, sore eyes that are sensitive to the light.

And over time, unprotected exposure to the sun can contribute to cataracts (the cumulative clouding of the lens that affects vision), as well as cancer of the eyelids and the skin around the eyes. Exposure to the sun’s UV (ultraviolet) rays may also increase the risk of macular degeneration—the leading cause of blindness in people over 65.

The simple solution: Wear—every time you’re outdoors—sunglasses or sun-protective goggles that are 100 percent UV blocking. And even better: opt for polarized lenses (you’ll pay extra for these at the eyeglass store), which help minimize glare from the snow and ice.

Fire

Limit wood-burning fires.
I know this sounds very Scrooge-like of me, but wood-burning fires—be it in a fireplace or in a wood stove—emit tiny particles into the air that can irritate your eyes (making them watery and itchy), your throat, and your lungs. Plus, cut, damp wood—stored outside or indoors—can become a haven for mold spores, an allergy trigger that can cause itchy, watery eyes. If you can’t give up sitting fireside, opt for firelogs—which are cleaner burning than traditional wood—or a gas fireplace.

Humidifier

Run a humidifier.
With the windows closed and the heat on, humidity levels drop quickly indoors—causing the eyes, skin, mouth, and even hair to dry out. With dry eyes, you’ll feel a burning or itchy sensation or the feeling that you’ve got something in your eye (particularly if you wear contact lenses). Over time, untreated dryness of the eyes can cause blurred vision or damage to the cornea. A humidifier can restore humidity levels to the air; just be sure to clean it regularly with distilled white vinegar and hot water to prevent bacterial buildup. Saline-based lubricating eye drops can also help keep eyes moist by supplementing the natural tear layer.

Water

Drink plenty of water.
I speak from experience here: when I don’t drink enough water—which is easy to forget during the cold-weather months (when all you want is something hot to drink)—my eyes start tearing up, particularly when it’s cold and windy outside. But boosting fluid intake can provide your body with the moisture it needs to increase tear production. You need at least 8, 8-ounce glasses a day.

Squash

Serve up some squash.
In addition to their beneficial beta-carotene, orange vegetables like butternut or acorn squash and pumpkin provide nutrients like lutein—critical for the eyes. Other key nutrients: vitamins A, C, E, and omega-3 fatty acids. To be sure you’re getting enough of the key nutrients your eyes need, eat a balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, fruits and veggies, lean protein, and legumes. And to be absolutely sure you’re getting what you (and your eyes) need, take a multivitamin like Centrum® Silver® Adults 50+—with a broad-spectrum of nutrients including Vitamins A, C, E and zinc and lutein to help protect the health of your eyes—every day.

I hope these tips will help bring you many years of sharp vision and healthy eyes. Be well!