Dry eyes are a common condition when your tear glands don’t produce enough tears to keep your eyes lubricated and moist. Tears are composed of four components, each of which serves a purpose: water for moisture, oils for lubrication, mucus to spread the moisture evenly across the eyes and antibodies to stave off any infection. So, when your tear glands don’t do their job – either an inadequate amount of tears or producing a poor quality of tears – you get dry eyes.
So, how do you know if you have dry eyes? Dry eyes are usually characterized by the following:
- A grittiness around the eyes
- Red eyes
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
Now, there can be a number of factors that can cause dry eyes. At the very least, it could be the environment that’s affecting your eyes, such as hot or dry weather, winds, or exposure to smoke. These conditions can cause your tears to evaporate quickly, and leave your eyes feeling gritty and dry. But, dry eyes are usually caused by imbalances in your tear gland system attributed to:
- Medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammation of the eyelids
- Hormonal shifts and changes especially in women, like menopause or pregnancy
- Other causes such as prolonged use of contact lenses, or eye surgery
Here are six ways in which you can relieve dry eyes:
Artificial Tear Drops:
Artificial tear drops are ideal for mild to moderate cases of dry eyes usually caused by prolonged eye strain or environmental stresses. You can use low-viscosity artificial tears for instant, but temporary, relief. You’ll need to apply them frequently – even if your eyes don’t feel dry – for relief. Low-viscosity drops won’t blur your vision when you apply them. High-viscosity drops should ideally used at night-time before bed, since they blur your vision for a few minutes after application.
Punctal plugs are small, sterile device that is inserted into the “puncta” – the tear ducts that drain the tears into your nose. In doing so, the tears are prevented from draining away, thereby preserving the tear film in your eyes for longer. These devices are temporary, and can be removed if they cause any irritation. Your optometrist can also prescribe a cauterizing procedure with a special tool which burns the opening shut; the scar tissue caused by the procedure serves as the plug.
Dry eyes are also caused when the meibum – the oily secretion that keeps your eyes lubricated – hardens and clogs the meibomian glands. Applying a warm compress to the eyes can soften the hardened meibum and clear the blockage in the glands.
LipiFlow Activators are heated pulsating eyepieces that massage and evacuate the meibomian glands. The 12-minute treatment uses a combination of heat and pressure to restore the balance of moisture and lubrication in your eyes. The heat is used to soften the hardened meibum, while the pressure is used to express the clogging meibum from your eyes.
Improve Your Diet
One of the natural ways to prevent or relieve dry eyes is to make improvements to your diet, especially enriching it with food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and minerals like potassium and zinc. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to be particularly beneficial for eye health. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish like tuna, salmon and mackerel, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Owing to their diuretic properties, caffeinated beverages and coffee can also affect tear production; so cutting down on those can also help relieving dry eyes.
Other Natural Remedies:
You can also resort to some of the following remedies for temporary relief and prevention of dry eyes:
- Avoid dry or windy areas and wear adequate protection when you’re out in these conditions, such as wrap-around sunglasses which completely cover your eyes and provide adequate UV protection
- Take frequent breaks from staring too long at a computer screen to prevent your eyes from drying out
- Blink often and deliberately to keep your eyes moist – try a few blinking exercises!
- Clean your eyelids with a warm, moist cloth and a mild cleansing agent like baby shampoo or eye wipes
If your dry eye symptoms persist for a long time, see a specialist without any delay. Dry eyes can also be a symptom of other underlying conditions, so it’s always best to be safe than sorry and get a doctor’s opinion.
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