How Cold Weather Can Affect Your Glaucoma

It’s October and the temperatures are already dropping in New Jersey, which means you might be experiencing dry, watery eyes. As the temperatures drop further and the winds pick up, these symptoms could worsen. The cold weather affects our bodies, eyes and skin in different ways, and it can be especially bothersome to people with glaucoma.

Glaucoma is an eye disorder that occurs when the optic nerve suffers damage. It’s a common condition, affecting more than 3 million Americans. While common, glaucoma remains a serious condition that can cause blindness. It cannot be cured but it can be successfully treated with eye drops, oral medications or surgery. 

If you have glaucoma and are looking to better manage your symptoms, you’ll want to pay close attention to the winter months. 

Cold Weather is Uncomfortable for Glaucoma Sufferers 

The pressure in our eyes is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A normal eye pressure range is between 12-21 mm Hg, so anything over this is considered high. Not all cases of high eye pressure indicate glaucoma, but it is a significant risk factor. If you have high eye pressure but no other symptoms, your eye doctor may diagnose you with ocular hypertension.

When managing glaucoma, the goal is to decrease pressure in the eyes and lower fluid buildup. However, there are a number of things that can interfere with this process, and one of them is cold weather. 

A study done at the Devers Eye Institute in Portland, Oregon found that glaucoma worsens in cold weather, especially for those who are in the early stages of the disease. The more extreme the weather patterns, the more the eyes are affected. This happens because oxygen particles in the air condense in cold weather, causing a slight increase in pressure in our bodies. 

Glaucoma Patients: How to Protect Your Eyes in the Winter 

Follow these tips to keep your eyes comfortable and protected during the winter. Even if you don’t have glaucoma, these are great tips to follow! 

  • Use eye drops. Lubricating artificial tears are available over the counter. They restore moisture in the eyes, which can be negatively affected by heaters and cold winds. Use these drops after using your glaucoma drops. 
  • Wear sunglasses. Sunlight reflects off the snow and ice so it’s just as important to wear your shades now as in the summer. Choose sunglasses that offer 100% protection from UVA and UVB rays. 
  • Shield your eyes. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, be sure to wear the proper eye protection. Special goggles are available for snowboarders, skiers, ice skaters, etc.. You may also want to wear a hat to deflect the sun’s rays. 

Schedule an Appointment Before the New Year 

No matter what stage your glaucoma is in, it’s important to protect your eyes during the winter season. Now is also a good time to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor because we’ll be headed into the New Year before long. Starting 2021 with the best vision possible is a wonderful gift you can give yourself!