A wide eyed emoji face wearing a blue knit cap floats in front of snowflakes while the wind whips around them.

Managing Thyroid Eye Disease in the Winter

Winter is not my friend. While I enjoyed snowy activities as a kid, those days are long behind me, and I have come to dread that crisp feeling in the air that signals winter is coming. The biting cold, wind, snow storms, layers, boots - I am tired just thinking about it. Yet another reason to despise winter is the effect the cold weather has on my eyes.

Winters past and present

I recall a winter before receiving treatment for thyroid eye disease (TED) - walking to work with the icy wind whipping at my face, my eyes would tear up so much I could hardly see. My eyes were always painfully dry, red, and watery.

And I did not get much relief indoors - walking from the cold into an ancient NYC building with an old radiator felt terrible. The stuffiness of the dry heat was stifling, and my eyes continuously protested. In these old buildings it seems to be all or nothing - sweat it out in the stuffy heat or turn the heat off. I chose the later for my apartment, and fortunately there is enough heat throughout the building to comfortably keep my home warm without turning on my radiator.

Over the past few years I have had several surgeries to treat thyroid eye disease. While they significantly helped, I still navigate some symptoms. Yes, I am in the inactive phase, but my eyes are different than how they were before TED. While I am glad that things are much better now in general, I still experience a lot of dryness during this time of year.

How I have been managing my TED symptoms this winter

Some things that have helped me so far this winter:

  1. Warm compress- My eyes generally do not feel great in the morning, and I hate seeing my dry and puffy eyes in the mirror. One of my doctors suggested I try a warm compress. I tried a few different methods, but so far my favorite has been a wash cloth with warm water. Both the heat and water are soothing, and there is a visible difference in just a minute.
  2. Eye drops, eye drops and more eye drops!- I did not think I would still be spending this much money on eye drops, but here we are. I use artificial tears during the day, and gel drops at night.
  3. Humidifier- I keep a small humidifier on my nightstand, and I turn it on every night as I fall asleep. On nights when I have forgotten to fill it with water, I wake up sensing a noticeable difference in dryness compared to other nights.
  4. Sunglasses - Yes, even in the winter. Sunglasses can be helpful on windy days. While not perfect, they help to create at least some sort of a barrier between the wind and my eyes.
  5. Stay hydrated- While cozy coffees and cocktails are much more appealing on cold winter days, I try to remind myself to drink a lot of water. I have not always been the best at this, but I definitely sense a difference in how my eyes feel.

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