Dry eye is a common eye disorder that happens when your eye doesn’t produce enough tears or the right quality of tears to keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.
Causes of Dry Eyes
- Age and Gender. Anyone can experience dry eyes, but people 50 and older are much more likely to develop dry eyes. It is especially more common in women after menopause.
- Environmental Conditions. People living in urban cities are generally three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with dry eyes compared to less urban areas with relatively little air pollution. This is also true for patients living in cities at higher city elevations. The risk for dry eyes is 13% higher in people living in zip codes at higher altitudes. Other environmental conditions that dry out the eyes include smoke (cigarettes and fire smoke), paint and other chemical irritants.
- Medications. Certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce tear production and dry out the eyes.
- Medical Conditions. People with Sjogren’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Diabetes Mellitus, Lupus and Thyroid eye disease, to name a few, are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes.
- Other Factors. Long-term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and contribute to dry eyes. And using the computer/phone, reading or watching TV decreases blinking rates which dry out the eyes.
Nine Tips for Managing Dry Eyes
Use artificial tears
Artificial tears are available without a prescription. There are many brands on the market, so you may want to try several to find the one you like best. Use them as often as you wish, but if you find yourself using them more than once every two hours, preservative-free brands may be better for you. Lubricating gels can also help, but because they are thicker and blur your vision, you will probably want to apply them at bedtime.
Avoid too much air movement
Fans, wind and hair dryers can make your eyes even drier, so you should limit your exposure to them. If you are going to be outside on a windy day, wear a pair of wraparound sunglasses to reduce the chance of wind blowing directly into your eyes.
Use a humidifier in the winter
Heating your home in the winter often dries the air out, so use a humidifier to add some moisture back into the air. Don’t have a humidifier? A pan of water on your radiator is a good substitute.
Managing air pollution
Regular replacement and installation of a high-quality air home filter is highly recommended. Air pollution and dry eyes are highly correlated.
Give your eyes a rest
We lubricate our eyes when we blink. Activities like reading, using your phone or watching television over a period of time will make your eyes feel dry. To prevent these issues, make sure you take frequent breaks. Giving your eyes a rest and blinking more frequently will allow your eyes to regain some of the moisture that they’ve lost. We recommend the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes stop, look at something 20 feet away and blink for 20 seconds.
Avoid cigarette smoke
There are already a lot of good reasons not to smoke or be exposed to second-hand smoke, but cigarette smoke can irritate your dry eyes so stay away from it. Smoking can also increase your risk of developing dry eyes in the first place.
Warm compresses and eyelid washing
Putting warm compresses on your eyes and then gently washing your eyelids with baby shampoo can help release the oil in your eyelids’ glands, thus improving the quality of your tears. Make sure you rinse all of the soap away from your eyes when you are finished.
Consider an omega-3 fatty acid supplement
Some people may find relief from dry eye by supplementing their diet with omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in the form of fish oil, krill oil and flax seed oil. Daily intake of 2000 to 4000 mg of omega-3 was found as effective as some of the best dry eye prescription medications in head to head studies.
Schedule an appointment with us
Dry eye is frequently a chronic condition, so life style alterations may not be enough. Numerous treatment modalities maybe necessary including Punctal plugs, Restasis, Xiidria, Lacrisert, Lipiflow and Steroid eye drops.