Do you sometimes get redness, an itching feeling or a feeling that there is something in your eyes? Well, chances are you are suffering from what is called ‘dry eye’. Although strangely, you can also suffer from this condition if your eyes become watery (but as it is only water, your eyes lack lubrication). Better to get this checked out by your optometrist to be on the safe side, though, as it may be something more serious. What is the cause of dry eye syndrome depends on different factors. I look at some possible options and remedies below.
The Cause of Dry Eye Syndrome
These could be for many reasons. It could be due to environmental factors. Too much time looking at a computer or being in a dusty or smoky place for example. It could be down to poor diet (omega 3 found in oily fish and some nuts can help the lubrication of the eye) or eyeliner or mascara blocking tear ducts. If it is a chronic condition, the cause may be due to a physiological issue (a tear duct or gland issue).
Our tears continuously keep our eyes lubricated. The tears aren’t simply made up of water. There are oils, mucus (nice!) and antibodies all in the mix. In minor cases of dry eye, the eyes become deprived of this lubrication.
For example, when we look at a computer screen for long periods, we tend not to blink as much. But in chronic cases it could be an issue with the tear duct itself. This could require a plug or treatment to unclog a blocked gland.
How It Is Diagnosed
There are various tests that your optometrist or ophthalmologist can carry out to determine if you have this condition and the possible cause. This is usually done by way of putting drops in your eye and using blue light to analyze the reaction. This is called the Fluorescein Dye Dry Eye Test. There are other tests that use blotting paper or paper together with special dye.
Options to Alleviate and/or Cure Dry Eye
In minor cases, it may be over the counter eye drops for dry eye that will sort out the problem. These drops may quickly bring relief to the condition. However, they won’t stop the dry eye occurring again. I discuss below ways to take preventative measures where the condition is minor.
However, if the condition is more serious, there are a number of prescribed treatments available. This includes a range of eye drops, gels or ointments. They will help lubricate the eyes for longer than the standard eye drops. For further details on treatments, click here.
In even more serious cases there are eye drops containing corticosteroid (an anti-inflammatory) or creams (containing steroids or testosterone) .
At the last resort, a surgical procedure may be required such as plugging the tear duct.
Where dry eye is not as a result of a physiological condition and you feel that dry eye is becoming more regular, you could think about ways to prevent it happening in the first place.
1. Eye Habits When In Front of a PC
In my previous post, Are Computer Screens Bad For Your Eyes, I talk about cutting down on eye strain when working in front of a computer over long periods. It is so easy (especially with the pressures of work) to keep going without a break. The danger is you end up just staring for long periods at the screen.
I have had to develop a habit of consciously blinking more often. I periodically look away into the distance and take time away from the computer screen. This has not come naturally to me. It can be easy to slip into the old bad habits. But I do find it very beneficial. My eyes feel fresher at the end of a working day if I have done this and they do not feel strained.
I find I can’t wear contact lenses for an extended period of time. I could also not wear them for close up computer work. However, there are specialized dry eye contact lenses available if you really want to wear contact lenses and you are suffering from dry eye. There are also such things as moisture chamber spectacles. They slow down the evaporation of tear moisture. They are similar to swimming goggles in the way they surround the eyes.
2. A Good Diet For The Eyes
As stated above, a change in your diet may help. Oily fish rich in omega 3 (such as salmon and tuna) or certain nuts (such as walnuts) or vegetables (such as spinach) could boost the lubricating quality of your tears. Eye supplements also may help to target dry eye. Check out my post on eye supplements here.
Other techniques or equipment may assist.
Firstly, you could try putting a warm flannel or an eye bag that has been heated in the microwave over the eyes. Do this for up to 10 minutes once or twice a day. After this, use your first two fingers of your left hand to gently message your closed left eye (by rolling the fingers across it). Repeat this with the right eye using your right hand.
Secondly, you could try closing your eyes tightly shut then opening them wide. Then do several blinks of the eye. Repeat this process until you feel moisture returning to your eye.
If you frequently come into dusty or smoky environments, you could consider wrap around glasses.
A humidifier could assist or simply open a window to get moisture into your surrounding air. I find that if I am driving for a long period of time and there is no ventilation in the car, my eyes become dry. When I notice this happening I either put on the AC or open a window. This sounds obvious but it could mean the difference between having tired eyes and well rested eyes by the end of the journey.
Prevention Better than Cure
So in all bar the most chronic cases, there are a number of steps that could be taken to extinguish or at least alleviate the risk of dry eye. It is an annoying and sometimes painful condition. So it is better to get to the cause of it first rather than squirting eye drops in your eyes after it has come about.
The eyes feel strained with dry eye. As I say a lot throughout this website, one big thing that we are trying to avoid in order to maintain and improve distance vision, is eye strain!
If you have any comments about this post and any tips yourself about treating dry eye, please leave them below. Thank you.