If your eyes water when you step outside into a windy environment, it is due to a process called “reflex tearing”. This is where your tear gland produces extra tears to try and rinse away any irritants or protect the eye from drying out. These reflex tears are very watery and do not stick to the eye as well as our normal tears.
Our normal tears have three layers: a mucin layer to help the tears stick to the eye, an oil layer to prevent the tears from evaporating, and a water layer. Over time or with certain medications, our normal tear layer decreases in either quality or quantity and the eyes become more dry. This creates greater sensitivity when we go outside, and the wind causes the eye to dry out further.
Another common symptom that the eyes are dry is blurry vision that changes as you blink, as the eyelids act as a windshield wiper that spread the tears unevenly across the eye.
If your eyes are watering because of reflex tearing, the best way to manage it is to try and prevent your eyes from getting too dry in the first place. The first treatments for dry eye that will be recommended by your eye care professional are as follows:
- Try and take more breaks to blink your eyes when doing focused tasks such as driving or screen use.
- Avoid forced air or other dry and dusty environments
- Drink more water
- Use a warm compress on your closed eyelids for 10 min every day
- Take a high quality omega 3 supplement that has at least 1000mg of DHA and EPA omega 3
- Artificial tears as needed