9 Ways to Deal With Dry Eyes
Tears are aptly called the first line of defense for our eyes, as they protect against many irritants such as germs and dust. Each time we blink, tears wash away these irritants, making everyday movement comfortable and easy. It’s so natural that we never give our tears a thought!
Our tears can run dry though. And If that happens, you could develop really dry eyes. In dry eye syndrome, your eyes become red, irritated, itchy, and in some cases, swollen too. Although it's quite common, many people don’t understand the causes of dry eye syndrome. So is there anything we can do to deal with those pesky and sometimes painful symptoms?
Fingers holding eyelids open showing dry eyes
Dry eyes occur when there are either insufficient, or poor quality tears due to an imbalance in the makeup of tears.
The condition feels quite uncomfortable so, if you have dry eyes, your eyes might burn or sting. Dry eyes can be experienced in a number of situations. For example, on an airplane, while riding a bike, or in an air-conditioned room. Similarly, you can also experience it by sitting in front of a computer screen for a long time.
There are particular treatments that can provide relief for dry eyes. Your doctor might, for example, prescribe the use of eye drops, or suggest you make some changes in your lifestyle. Now, before you balk at the notion of lifestyle changes ﹘ these simple measures can greatly improve the condition without disrupting your life. But, before we get into these lifestyle changes, let’s discuss the causes.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Our eyes have a tear film with a particular composition. It consists of a mucous layer, a watery layer, and an outer oily layer. There are many ways in which the tear film can be disrupted. For instance, a blockage in the small (Meibomian) glands in one or both of the eyelids can result in a decrease in overall tear production, and at the same time, an increase in tear evaporation. This is due to the disruption of the oily layer, resulting in dry eyes.
Many factors can give rise to this condition:
- Seasonal allergies
- Medications including birth control pills, antidepressants, decongestants, and antihistamines
- Increasing age
- Smoky, dry, and windy environments
- Change in hormones either during pregnancy or after menopause
- Staring at the computer screen for long periods which can result in a reduction of the blinking frequency
Recognizing Dry Eyes
The signs and symptoms that generally affect both eyes and lead to dry eyes include the following:
- Stringy mucus either in or around the eyes
- A scratchy, burning, or stinging sensation in the eyes
- Redness in the eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Feeling like there is a particle in your eye
- Difficulty in wearing contact lenses
- Frequent eye fatigue or blurred vision
- Watery eyes; the body’s natural response to the irritation of dry eyes
- Difficulty driving at night or in the dark
The List of 9 Ways to Deal With Dry Eyes
If you’re dealing with dry eyes, pay attention to the situations that led to the symptoms. Once you recognize these symptoms and causes, you can work on finding solutions to prevent the symptoms of dry eyes. Here are nine ways to prevent or relieve the problem:
- Avoid air blowing directly into your eyes. Common culprits are fans, home and car air conditioners, heaters, and hair dryers.
- Increase the moisture content of air around you. In winter, the indoor air becomes particularly dry. Adding a humidifier to a room is the perfect solution to this problem.
- Use protective eyewear. To protect your eyes from drying, you should wear wraparound sunglasses. Alternatively, you can use other protection, such as adding safety shields to the tops and sides of the eyeglasses to avoid dry air and wind. Ask your Optometrist or favorite eyewear store about the available options.
- Give your eyes a break. If you’re engaged in a task that requires visual concentration, such as reading, it is vital to take eye breaks periodically. Either close your eyes for some minutes, ideally cupping your palms over them, or repeatedly blink for a few seconds. This will spread the tears evenly over your eyes. Another trick is to look away from your computer screen into the distance for a few minutes. This relieves strained eye muscles.
- Know your environment. The air in airplanes, desert areas, and at high altitude is quite dry. So, when you are in such an environment, stay hydrated and close your eyes frequently for a few minutes. This way, you can minimize the evaporation of tears.
- Keep your computer screen below eye level. If your screen is kept above eye level, you tend to open your eyes wider to look at it. So, position the computer screen below your eye level so that you don’t have to open your eyes as much. This will slow the evaporation of tears between eye blinks.
- Basically, putting a stop to your smoking habits can save your eyes. If you are an active smoker, ask your doctor for help in devising a quitting plan that will work for you. If you are a passive smoker, stay away from people who smoke, since that can worsen the symptoms of dry eyes.
- Make sure to use eye drops. If you suffer chronic dry eyes, make use of eye drops or artificial tears even when your eyes feel completely fine. This way, you can keep them well-lubricated.
- Make changes to your diet. Try incorporating more foods that are rich in vitamin A and Omega-3 fatty acids. Both are important for tear production and eye health. Foods rich in these nutrients include walnuts, fish, broccoli, carrots, and liver.
- If you wear contacts, did you know that many are specifically designed to combat dry eye. The latest technology for this is silicone hydrogel. This type of lens requires less moisture than other contacts, while allowing more oxygen to pass through the lens and nourish your eyes. This is also called breathability, and there are two well-known brands that specialize in this Air Optix Hydraglyde and CooperVision Biofinity.
Finding Relief From Dry Eyes
Regardless of the cause of dry eyes, it's crucial that you treat the symptoms sooner, rather than later. Don’t wait until conditions worsen. Dry eyes are more at risk of getting infected or scratched. And with insufficient tears, your vision becomes blurry as well.
The best way to get your tears flowing normally once more, is to see your optometrist. He or she can identify the reason behind your dry eye. Afterwards, you’ll get a treatment option that will provide you with the best results. Your eyes will thank you for it!