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Extreme cold is not something most Australians have to endure. But elsewhere in the world, rare cold-weather events do occur – like the extreme winters North American’s faced back in 2017 and again in 2019, where temperatures dropped below those in the Arctic. Such events make us think about how cold weather affects our eyes.
Believe it or not, our eyes are extremely resilient to the cold, but there are sensible precautions you can take to protect them. Whether you have a ski holiday planned soon, or you’re going on a business trip somewhere cold, this article is for you.
These are the three main ways cold climates can affect your eyes:
Just as cars have heating, windshield wipers and anti-freeze to keep your windows from freezing, our eyes have eyelashes, eyelids and salty teardrops to help us withstand cold temperatures. Saltwater freezes at much colder temperatures than normal water, which is why our eyes can stay moist in sub-zero temperatures with our salty teardrops. Plus our body’s warmth helps protect us from the cold.
Even with all these mechanisms, extremely cold weather can still sometimes cause the following severe symptoms:
If any of the above conditions occur, go inside somewhere to warm up your eyes. If conditions persist, see a medical professional.
The eyes are vert resilient, which is why when you see people out in the extreme cold their eyes are often the only exposed part of their body. Despite this, you should always prevent unnecessary risk of damage. So, if you happen to find yourself in a polar vortex, be sure to look after your eyes.
The information on this page is general in nature. All medical and surgical procedures have potential benefits and risks. Consult your ophthalmologist for specific medical advice.
IMPORTANT: If you are concerned about your eyes and require an urgent consultation, DO NOT use this form. Please call one of our clinics during office hours or contact your nearest emergency department.