Dryness may be an asset when telling a funny story or attending a sunny summer party, but when it comes to our eyes, dry can be a serious problem.
Almost 48% suffer from dry eyes and the itchy discomfort the condition causes. Of those, 43% have difficulty reading due to the symptoms. Yet some of the main sources of dry eyes, from drug side effects to medical ailments, are still largely misunderstood. Few people realize, that dry eyes can be a syndrome, resulting from a chronic lack of moisture on the surface of the eye. This condition can lead to nonstop irritation and swelling.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to treat and relieve dry eyes, some of which may be in your kitchen cabinet. Below, we will explore the symptoms of and treatments for dry eyes.
Staring down the symptoms
If your eyes feel like they are wearing tiny wool sweaters, then you likely are suffering from dry eyes. Persistent scratchiness, redness and burning are all common symptoms, as is the feeling that a foreign object is in your eye.
The causes can be far-ranging, however. Dry eyes can result from aging, medical conditions such as lupus, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, or as a side effect of medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, Parkinson’s medications and birth control pills. A diet low in vitamin A also can contribute to dry eyes.
If your symptoms persist, you should have your optician test for dry eye syndrome. This occurs when the glands near the eye do not produce enough tears, or a dysfunction reduces the amount of oil you produce, causing tear evaporation. If you do tear up, don’t let the tears fool you – sometimes eye dryness will over-stimulate production of the watery component of your tears as a protective mechanism.
Dry eye syndrome is detected through an exam called a Schirmer’s test, during which the optician places a thin strip of filter paper under the lower eyelid to measure tear production.
Here’s flax in your eye
Remedying dry eye means getting back our tears, which are fairly complex little things. Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies, to fight infection. Fortunately, relief can be relatively easy to come by. Treatment for dry eyes can range from fatty acids to eye drops. As for dry eye syndrome, while the condition is chronic, the symptoms can be managed.
Some common methods for soothing dry eyes include:
Eye drops and lubricants
Your optician may prescribe lubricating eye drops that will either alleviate the symptoms or address tear shortage. Prescription eye drops will help the body produce more tears by reducing inflammation. If you wear contacts, be advised that many eye drops cannot be used while the contacts are in. Also note that drops that promise to get the red out will not necessarily lubricate your eyes. 63% of adults who use non-prescription eye drops for their dry eyes say the drops are only somewhat effective at best in managing their symptoms.
Supplements and oils
What works from the outside can also work from the inside. Certain supplements, such as those containing omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to alleviate dry eye symptoms. Salmon, sardines, cod, herring and other cold-water fish are all recognized sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Also, some opticians recommend flaxseed oil, which can come in the form of supplements, to relieve dry eyes. It may also help to drink more water, since hydration can exacerbate dry eyes.
The sun, wind and dust all contribute to dry eyes, as does cold weather. Sunglasses, particularly close-fitting wrap-around frames, will help to keep wind and debris away from your eyes. Dryness is seldom a good condition for the human body, whether it involves the eyes or the skin. Treat them the same – stay well hydrated, eat good foods and protect against drying elements. Here’s hoping all your tears are happy ones.