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The Environmental Impact on Dry Eye – Climate Change

It’s Getting Hot in Here: How Climate Change is Impacting Dry Eye Disease

(I-MED Pharma)

Dry eye disease is on the rise. One of the risk factors of dry eye to consider is our ever-changing environment. The change in climate has impacted different environments in different ways–from rising temperatures, natural disasters like forest fires, to high pollen and exposure to ultraviolet rays. So, what impact does our environment have on our eyes? Check out today’s forecast.


Just Like a Heatwave

Dry Eyes in Hot Weather and from the Sun

The dog days are just beginning, meaning symptoms of dry eyes from the sun are beginning to arise as well. Dry eyes in hot weather can be attributed to dryness that comes with the heat. In dry, hot environments with low humidity, tears will evaporate quicker. And so, if you already suffer from dry eye, these types of environments can make symptoms much worse. Dry eyes after sun exposure can be extremely uncomfortable and can cause lingering ocular discomfort. A 2020 study titled, “Climatic and Environmental Correlates of Dry Eye Disease Severity: A Report from the Dry Eye Assessment and Management (DREAM) Study” studied dry eye cases across people from different climates. They found that dry eye signs differed between climates and local humidity levels. [1] They found that patients in the Mediterranean climate zone of the United States demonstrated significantly better results throughout the calendar year, as opposed to those from drier or more subtropical climates.


Fire Burning

Eye Irritation from Wind and Smoke

Some areas are more prone to forest fires, which can cause an uptick in smoke, dust, and other particles that can get in your eyes and disrupt their tear producing abilities. Eye irritation from wind and smoke can come from debris, and other particles entering the eye, and the fact that wind is drying. The smoke from wildfires can cause eye irritation as well as inflammation, making the eyes feel dry, gritty, and red. Additionally, there is an interesting phenomenon that occurs in people who have eyes sensitive to light and wind. Photophobia, or an abnormal experience of pain to light, is a frequent complaint in patients with sensations of ocular dryness. [2]


Blinding Lights

Dry Eyes after Sun Exposure and UV Rays

Ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to more than just your skin. In fact, your eyes can also get sunburned. Severely sunburned eyes are caused by overexposure to UV rays, known as photokeratitis or ultraviolet keratitis. It is an inflammation of the cornea, though other parts of the eye can also get sunburned, such as the retina, lens, and conjunctiva. [3] This condition can be caused when the sun gets reflected from water, sand, ice, or snow. Meaning, cold weather doesn’t necessarily mean that UV exposure is low. There is also the possibility of being exposed to man-made UV rays, such as tanning beds. It’s important that if you are in these conditions, to properly protect yourself from the UV rays by using adequate eye protection.


So Sick (of Allergies)

Pollen Allergies and Dry Eyes

Another seemingly obvious cause of dry eye would be allergies. Although it seems like a given, it’s not always obvious whether symptoms are caused by allergies or if the symptoms are caused by dry eye disease, or if it’s a mix of the two. Pollen allergies and dry eye share many similar symptoms, and to the untrained eye, it may seem like there isn’t much difference of what sets them apart. See the chart below so that you can best differentiate allergy eyes vs dry eyes.

Allergy Eyes vs Dry Eyes – Comparison Table Handy Reference


Drops of Jupiter

Ideal Humidity Level for Dry Eyes

As discussed, hot climates can dry the eyes out, but with that in mind, what would be the best climate for dry eyes? The best/ideal humidity level for dry eyes would be moderate, though higher humidity can have a modest positive effect on dry eyes. In fact, the aforementioned 2020 study also suggested that the sub-analysis of the data helps to confirm long-term suspicions that a moist climate is healthier for dry eye patients. [4] The reason being that the air contains more moisture and humidity, allowing for more moisture to hydrate the eyes than a dry environment where the air is lacking in humidity and moisture.


What’s Cooler Than Being Cool?

Dry Eyes and Cold Air

Just like the dryness of the sun and wind can irritate the eyes, same goes for cold, windy weather. On top of that, air conditioning can also be a culprit in causing ocular discomfort, especially in an office environment. Although the air conditioning cold is man-made, it’s quite common for people to suffer from dry eyes in the office environment where air conditioning levels are preset and not always adjustable. Dry eyes and cold, dry weather go hand in hand, seeing as there is less moisture in the air leading to drier eyes.


Come Clean

HOCl Cleansing Spray for Dry Eyes from Weather

Ocular hygiene is essential to any dry eye management regimen. Spray your way through any season with I-LID ’N LASH® HOCL CLEANSING SPRAY. Containing 0.02% pure HOCl, it’s an effective water-based cleanser that keeps eyes clean and hydrated throughout the day. Simply remove the cap and spray on your eyes when a refreshing cleanse is needed, no need to rinse off. It’s the perfect item to have on the go, especially when adverse weather is forecasted.


Tears Dry on Their Own

The environment can play a role in causing or exacerbating dry eye disease. Here are additional lifestyle preventative measures that can be taken to help reduce symptoms:

  • Wear sunglasses (preferably ones that wrap around and protect against UV rays) to reduce UV exposure, as well as ensure eye protection from wind and sun.
  • Incorporate an omega-3 supplement like I-VU® OMEGA-3 from I-MED Pharma.
  • Use a preservative-free artificial tear like I-DROP® from I-MED Pharma.

The dry eye season doesn’t have to last forever. Implementing a dry eye management routine is key for those suffering from dry eye disease to rise above their symptoms and break the dry eye cycle.

Do you suspect you may be suffering from environmental dry eye?


[1] Berg, Erich J, et al. “Climatic and Environmental Correlates of Dry Eye Disease Severity: A Report from the Dry Eye Assessment and Management (DREAM) Study.” Translational Vision Science & Technology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7401914/.

[2] Diel, Ryan J, et al. “Photophobia: Shared Pathophysiology Underlying Dry Eye Disease, Migraine and Traumatic Brain Injury Leading to Central Neuroplasticity of the Trigeminothalamic Pathway.” The British Journal of Ophthalmology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2021, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8022288/.

[3] Whelan, Corey. “Sunburned Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 Feb. 2019, www.healthline.com/health/eye-health/sunburned-eyes#when-to-see-a-doctor.

[4] Berg, Erich J, et al. “Climatic and Environmental Correlates of Dry Eye Disease Severity: A Report from the Dry Eye Assessment and Management (DREAM) Study.” Translational Vision Science & Technology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7401914/.