Do your eyes often burn for no apparent reason? Is your vision sometimes foggy even though your prescription is current? Do your eyes itch despite the fact that you don’t have allergies? All of these symptoms indicate a potential dry eye problem. Other symptoms include feeling like something is in your eye, excess watering and blurred vision.
Dry eye is caused by not enough tear production or from poor quality of tears produced, both resulting in insufficient moisture to lubricate and nourish eyes.
What causes dry eye?
There are a variety of causes of dry eye. For starters, dry eye can simply come with age. In addition, more women than men suffer from dry eyes due to changing hormones. Some medications as well as many medical conditions can also cause dry eyes.
Long-term contact wearers as well as those who have had LASIK surgery also tend to have more problems with dry eyes. Finally, a person’s environment could be the source of dry eye problems.
What can be done about dry eye?
Fortunately, there are many solutions available for dry eye sufferers. The following are commonly the most helpful.
- Eye drops add artificial tears that lubricate the eye. Drops are available over the counter and provide an easy solution for mild cases of dry eyes. Prescription drops are also available from a doctor.
- Supplements such as omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bring relief for dry eyes. Because other nutritional deficiencies, such as low vitamin A, can also contribute to dry eye, evaluating your diet may be useful.
- Safety Glasses can help when a person’s environment is the culprit. Dry, dusty and smoky environments – such as in mines, machine shops and constructions sites – often cause dry eyes, and safety glasses can help protect eyes in these environments.
- Sunglasses can help reduce dry eye problems caused by squinting in sunlight as well as by wind and other outdoor elements. Wrap-around styles especially help combat these environmental causes of dry eye.
- Hydration not only benefits our body as a whole, but it can also help reduce dry eye by giving the body adequate supplies for tear production. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, which experts say means 8-10 glasses of water daily.
- Humidify your environment to lessen its impact on drying your eyes. Small, inexpensive units are available to be able to make your home and work environment more eye friendly.
- Blinking not only gives eyes a break from staring a computer screen or other object for long periods of time, but it also promotes tear production. Many optometrist recommend applying the 20-20-20 rule to help not only reduce dry eye symptoms but also to help with visual focusing problems that often result from tired eyes.
- Ergonomics not only impact an individual’s musculoskeletal health but can also contribute to dry eyes. A 2005 New York Times article reported that when people squint to reduce glare or bring text into focus, they blink less thus reducing tear production which leads to dry eye problems. Making sure your work station is set up properly can prevent squinting and as a result aid in preventing dry eye as well.
- Adequate ventilation can provide yet another way to combat dry eyes. This is especially applicable in a setting with dry air or with particles in the air (such as dust or printer toner), which can make tears unable to adequately coat eyes. Adjusting ventilation and installing a simple air filter that services the room you work in can help in reducing these types of problems.
- Treat inflammation around the surface of the eyes. Prescription eye drops, ointments, warm compresses, lid massages and eyelid cleaners can reduce inflammation around the eye that may be contributing to dry eye problems.
Note that sometimes the best solution is a combination of the above suggestions, so be willing to try each of the above to find a combination that works for you. If the above fail to provide adequate relief, additional and more invasive solutions including surgery and plugging eye ducts are additional options when these other options fail to work and must be done by a physician.
What’s the first step?
First and foremost, anyone suffering from chronic dry eye should see an optometrist for a thorough evaluation. Your eye doctor can determine if a serious health problem is the cause and can also give experienced advice in helping find a solution. Seeing your family doctor for any possible health problems and possibly medication adjustments is also a good idea.