Are your eyes as dry and gritty as sand dunes? Does your vision improve after you blink? Then your eyes may have lost their ability to produce sufficient tears for continuous lubrication. The American Association of Ophthalmology reports that about 3.2 million women and 1.7 million men older than 50 have chronic dry eyes. Once a female condition due to hormonal fluctuations during menopause, researchers have found another common cause: modern society’s habit of staring at screens at work and home.
British scientists found that a fifth of their 3,824 women subjects had dry eye symptoms during the previous three months while just 10 percent were receiving treatments. They associated dry eye syndrome (DES) with age, allergies, asthma, chronic pain, eczema, cataract surgery, stroke, depression, and migraine. Dry, scratchy eyes also caused problems working online, watching TV, and driving.
Causes and Symptoms
The University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center advises that your eyes must maintain balanced oil, water, and mucus levels for tears to provide proper moisture and protection. If any of these substances is deficient, dry eye irritation may result. Adequate tear films are necessary to wear contact lenses on your eyes’ surfaces comfortably. When you can’t produce lubricating tears on a steady basis, your eyes will excrete excessive yet ineffective tears as they try to lubricate irritated surfaces.
See an ophthalmologist for a complete eye exam if you experience at least one of these symptoms:
Burning or stinging
Fluctuating or decreased vision
Eye scratchiness or irritation
Excessive tearing, especially while reading, watching TV, or driving
Stringy mucus within or near your eyes
Difficulties with contact lens use
An ophthalmologist can recommend the right eye drops or artificial tears, depending on the layer of tears that needs help. Besides your outer oily coating, you have a middle layer that’s thick and watery and an inner one that clings to your eye.
Over-the-counter Loratadine eye drops moisturize dry, irritated eyes. Or your doctor may prescribe Restasisprescription eye drops to reduce inflammation of your ocular surfaces and increase your natural ability to produce lubricating tears. Omacor’s fish oil with Omega 3 fatty acids may help reduce related cornea inflammation.
The Blinking Factor
Glands in your eyelids squirt oil onto your eyes’ surfaces during every blink. Transfixing your eyes on computer, tablet, phone, and TV screens tends to eliminate blinking, which can be problematic. Your eyes may feel dehydrated after staring at multiple office and personal screens day and night. Modern technology has made DES nearly epidemic, according to cornea specialist Dr. Stephanie Marioneaux, M.D., the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s spokesperson.
Dry indoor air complicates matters. Without the necessary oil replenishment that blinking provides, your eyes’ surfaces dry out more rapidly. Your tears become more acidic and concentrated, causing additional irritation. This can make vision blurry, so some people fear that they have brain tumors or other dreaded diseases. Marioneaux cautions against panicking that you’re losing your vision. Try a blink test first. Improved vision after blinking is a clue that you have dry eye syndrome.
Blink more frequently and mindfully to relieve your bothersome symptoms. Whenever you’re waiting for computer downloads to finish or red lights to change, blink every four seconds. Squeeze your eyelids tightly to induce the oil flow. Frequent blinking can be especially helpful while reading, watching television, and driving.
Your entire body’s underlying health affects DES directly, notes Dr. Marc Grossman, O.D. Over time, a regular routine of adequate hydration and key nutrient consumption can help you avoid or relieve many dry eye effects. Generally, eating a healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and whole grains reduces all eye problem risks.
Water: Just upping your water intake may improve your dry eye condition. Water is our most essential nutrient, but Dr. F. Batmanghelidj reports that chronic dehydration is rampant today. The Institutes of Medicine advocate around 90 daily ounces of water for most women and 125 or more ounces for most men. You should reach 20 percent of your daily quota with foods while filtered drinking water supplies the rest.
Omega 3 fatty acids: These essential nutrients produce your tear film’s oily and watery layers. Get these fatty acids from fish including salmon, halibut, tuna, and sardines as well as flax seeds.
Antioxidants: Besides aging, unhealthy lifestyle habits like poor eating habits, insufficient exercise, excess alcohol consumption, smoking, and chronic stress can cause free radical damage. This oxidative stress may contribute to dry eyes. But antioxidant-rich foods help decelerate the oxidation process. Enjoy ample amounts of fruits like acerola cherries, acai berries, goji berries, and additional tart berries plus colorful vegetables such as spinach, kale, and other dark leafy greens.
Potassium and zinc: While all minerals boost eye health, two are particularly important. Grossman notes that dry eye patients have low potassium levels usually. Up your intake by eating bananas, almonds, pecans, raisins, figs, dates, avocados, and wheat germ. Zinc contributes to your eyes’ vascular coating. Good sources include fish, liver, legumes, sunflower seeds, whole grains, and brewer’s yeast.