Best Prosthetic Eye Lubricants for Cold Weather
How to Keep Your Prosthesis from Drying Out in the Cold
If you have an artificial eye, you’ve probably noticed that it feels a bit more dry and scratchy in the cold weather. There are a few reasons this happens, and some simple solutions you can use. You might be thinking about using a prosthetic eye lubricant. If so, your hunch is correct, but there are several kinds, and you need to get the right one for cold weather. This article will help you make an informed choice.
Why does this matter? Because a dried-out eye socket with a prosthesis is very uncomfortable. It’s harder to blink, and your eyelids can stick to the prosthesis if you don’t take preventative action before exposing your eyes to the cold.
What Cold Weather Does to Prosthetic Eyes
There are three primary problems for artificial eyes caused by cold weather.
Large Temperature Swings
When it’s very cold outside but warm and dry inside, this increases the speed and frequency with which your eye socket will dry out. The sooner your tear film evaporates, the quicker you’ll experience the uncomfortable sensation of a dried-out eye socket with a prosthesis.
Oil Glands Reduce Production
The oil glands in your eyelids reduce their oil production in cold weather, because the glands become more constricted, much like blood vessels.
Your tear film actually has three layers. The oil layer, also called the lipid layer, is the outer-most layer, and that oil layer keeps the water layer from evaporating. Remember in science class when you learned that oil and water don’t mix? That’s exactly what’s happening here.
The outside oil layer prevents the water layer from escaping, and prolongs the ability of the eye to remain comfortable. Under normal conditions, a person with both of their natural eyes can go for months without having to worry about this.
But if that oil layer gets thinner, as it does in cold weather, the water layer has an easier chance of escaping through evaporation. As that happens, your eyes dry out.
Wind and Cold Dry Out the Eyes
Remember the famous movie scene in A Christmas Story when the kid gets his tongue stuck to the frozen post? Extreme cold can be relatively moisture free. If you’re moving fast like in winter sports such as skiing, or even just going for a bike ride or a run, your eyes can dry out very quickly. If the weather is a combination of cold and windy, the tear film evaporation process happens even faster.
This is one reason skiers typically wear goggles.
How to Keep Your Prosthetic Eye Moisturized in Cold Weather
You have two main options for how to prevent your prosthesis from drying out in cold weather. Both options are great if you’ll be spending time outdoors.
Wear An Eye Patch
Especially if it’s windy and cold, think of yourself as a permanent skier, but without the skis. You can’t walk around in ski goggles all day, but you can wear an eye patch over your prosthetic eye. This will help keep moisture in the eye socket and will shield it from the wind and cold. Here are 5 tips to make sure your eye patch is comfortable too.
Choose from a variety of eye patch colors and designs
Use High Viscosity Prosthetic Eye Lubricants
In cold weather, drops are not enough to keep your artificial eye sufficiently lubricated. It’s just too easy to thin out that oil layer and lose some of the aqueous layer that keeps your eye comfortable.
Better than drops, you’ll want to choose a higher viscosity prosthetic eye lubricant. Higher viscosity means it is thicker – more gooey – than a lower viscosity substance. Just so we’re clear on the science language, honey has high viscosity, and lemon juice has low viscosity. That’s a much bigger range than you’ll find in prosthetic eye lubricants, but hopefully the concept is clear.
The idea here is, with a heavy viscosity prosthetic eye lubricant, you will preserve that outer oil layer for longer, thus protecting the water later from evaporation, and keeping your prosthesis comfortable.
With a well-lubricated eye socket, blinking will remain comfortable even in cold weather.
Will you need to lubricate your prosthetic eye more often in cold weather?
Yes, most likely, so make sure you have a supply of lubricant on hand to get through the winter months, especially if you will be outside frequently.
Northwest Eye Design sells several types of prosthetic eye lubricant, including two heavy viscosity options. We recommend trying one of those to stay comfortable during the cold winter months.