Dry Eye Syndrome Triggered By Low Temperatures

Dry Eye Syndrome - temperatures
Image by Imelenchon

Spring will probably be a relief for all of us in northern climates, but especially those who suffer from dry eye syndrome.

A study published in the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science describes how dry eye syndrome can be worse when temperatures sink below 30 degrees Celcius1,2.  Since that is about 86 degrees Fahrenheit, any time you are out in (especially windy, dry weather) you may have the dry eye burning and tearing experience.  Not until the hot weather of summer will weather related relief for your dry eye symptoms arrive.  Luckily, there are other effective strategies that you can try to prevent and treat your dry eye symptoms.

Meibomian Layer

According to the study, temperature affects the function of the meibomian layer of the eye, which produces the oily substance that protects the outer layer of the tear film.  The meibomian layer can become stiff and thick and not spread evenly over the surface of the tear film to protect it from evaporation.  And when the tear film evaporates too quickly you have the burning, tearing dry eye symptom.

Being out in the wind can also greatly exacerbate dry eye symptoms as well as living and working in the dry air so common in the heated spaces in which most of us spend our winters.

The solution:  Be sure to blink when you are outdoors to keep spreading the tear film across your cornea.  Pay attention to whether your eyes feel the slightest bit of burning so that you might be able to avert the tearing that will result.


  1. D. Borchman, et al, Human meibum lipid conformation and thermodynamic changes with meibomian-gland dysfunction, Investigative and Visual Science, June, 2011
  2. 5. I.A. Butovich, J.C. Arciniega, et al, Meibomian Lipid Films and the Impact of Temperature, Investigations in Ophthalmology and Visual Science, November, 2010