Every time you blink, your eyelids distribute tears over the surface of your eyes, forming a protective film. This helps to clear debris and keep your eyes lubricated.
However, sometimes this process stops working as effectively as it should, causing dry eyes. This is in fact a common problem that happens when there is a decrease in the production of tears or the protective film evaporates.
As you’ll know if you’ve experienced the condition, dry eyes can be highly uncomfortable – causing everything from irritable itching to more severe stinging and burning. It can also result in your vision becoming temporarily blurred. Fortunately, there are many treatments available that provide effective relief, from eye washes to changes in diet and lifestyle.
Read on for a better understanding of dry eyes and how to combat this condition.
What are the symptoms of dry eyes?
Dry eyes can lead to a range of symptoms. For example, you might experience a gritty sandpaper feeling in your eyes, as well as itchiness and soreness. You may also notice a redness in the whites of your eyes or a blurriness to your vision.
It may seem counterintuitive, but this condition can actually cause your eyes to become more watery too. This is due to your eyes over producing tears in order to cope with the dryness and irritation.
What are the causes of dry eyes?
Dry eyes can occur in a variety of circumstances and for many different reasons. Age is sometimes a factor as changes in hormone levels as we get older can reduce tear production. Other medical issues that can reduce tear production include poor reflexes or an obstruction of the glands. It can also be a side effect of diabetes or of medications such as beta blockers, antihistamines or diuretics. Dehydration is known to be a risk factor too.
How we work can also lead to problems. Users of computer screens who don’t take regular breaks often suffer from dry eyes, and continued concentration can lead to a lack of blinking and therefore trigger eye dryness.
Environmental factors such as heating or air-conditioning can cause eyes to feel dry as well, and exposure to wind or heat, or irritants such as dust, smoke or pollen, also increases the risk. Contact lens wearers are often prone to dry eyes too.
Tips to avoid dry eyes
Some basic steps to help you avoid dry eyes include always keeping your eyes clean and ensuring you get the right amount of sleep in order to rest them. Also, if you wear contact lenses, make sure you remove them routinely to allow your eyes much needed downtime to rehydrate.
If you work mainly in front of a screen, take regular breaks away from it and remember to blink often to keep your eyes moist.
How to treat dry eyes
One of the simplest ways to tackle dry eyes is to use eye drops or mists that are specifically formulated to moisturise and re-lubricate. These treatments are pH balanced to the eye’s natural tear fluid, so they don’t sting when you apply them. They are designed to provide instant relief from the symptoms of dry eyes.
If your quality of life is being seriously affected by this condition, you might want to think about targeted medical treatments that can impact on your tear production. This is a possibility you can talk through with your doctor. They will advise you on your options and what may work in your particular case.
How to cure dry eyes naturally
While there are a number of fast and effective treatments for dry eyes available in the form of eye drops and mists, you can also reduce the risk of experiencing this condition in the first place by making certain lifestyle changes. Below are some of the steps you can take.
Alter your diet
On a dietary level, food high in omega 3 fatty acids have been found by researchers to help the glands of our eyes to function optimally. Omega 3 can be found in high quantities in a variety of foods. Fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, trout and sardines are all good sources, as are soybean oil, flax seeds and walnuts. You might also want to take dietary supplements of omega-3. Before you do this though, it’s always wise to consult a medical professional.
Make sure you get plenty of vitamin C in your diet too by eating lots of fruit and vegetables.
Use a humidifier
If you find the air where you spend your time is often dry, you might benefit from purchasing a humidifier. These appliances can add much needed moisture back into the air, reducing the likelihood of eye dryness. A bowl of water placed by a radiator can work in the same way.
Hydration is key to keeping your eyes moist. To stay healthy, our bodies require water – and this includes our eyes.
It’s wise not to wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, as you may already be dehydrated by this point. Instead, set yourself a goal of drinking around eight glasses of water or other hydrating liquids at regular intervals throughout the day.
Don’t forget to blink
While spending long hours looking at monitors and screens, our blink count per minute is seriously reduced. Be conscious of this to avoid eye dryness and regularly force yourself to blink.
It’s also useful to follow the 20/20/20 rule. This means that every 20 minutes you’re at a computer or staring at another screen, you should spend 20 seconds looking at an object 20 feet away.
Dry eyes can undoubtedly be irritating and painful, but if you follow advice like this, you should be able to keep this condition at bay.