Dry eye, also called dry eye syndrome, is a common condition that can impact your quality of life. It can make it a little harder to be productive at work and diminish your time with family and friends. The American Journal of Ophthalmology estimates that 16 million adults have been diagnosed with the disease, and a 2012 Gallup poll suggest that 29 million Americans will suffer from the disease by 2022.
Adopting lifestyle changes or seeking simple home remedies for dry eyes is a good first step toward treating this disease. However, if your condition continues, worsens, or if there is an increase in your pain level or change in eye color, see an eye doctor immediately.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
The most common cause of dry eye syndrome is not having enough tears to lubricate the eyeballs. Dry eye syndrome can also be caused by medical conditions, environmental factors and even certain medications such as:
- Nasal decongestants
- Drugs to lower blood pressure
- Hormone therapy and oral contraceptives
- Acne medication
- Medications for Parkinson’s disease
Risk Factors For Dry Eye
- Advanced age: 65 and over
- Gender: Female
- Frequent use of contact lenses
- Low blink rate due to prolonged screen time
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Autoimmune conditions such as lupus
- Chronic diseases such as diabetes
- Environmental extremes
Learn more about what causes chronic dry eye .
DIY Remedies for Dry Eyes
Testing and diagnosis are required in order to understand the underlying cause of your condition. However, in the meantime, you may be able to find relief yourself with these simple home remedies for dry eyes:
1. Wash Your Eyelids and Lashes
When you wash your face, pay careful attention to your eyelids and eyelashes. Use warm water and baby shampoo, or a preservative-free eyelid cleanser to gently clean your upper and lower eyelids. Special attention should be paid to areas with makeup or facial creams that could get into the tear film and potentially irritate your eyes.
Follow up with a mask or warm, damp towel — using it as a compress — to help your eyes regain moisture.
2. Rest Your Eyes
Constant connectivity could be contributing to your dry eyes. The light from your computer screen, smartphone and television can be irritating. Furthermore, reduced blink rate or incomplete blinking can contribute to dry eyes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, numerous studies show computer users sometimes have reduced blink rate, which may contribute to dry eye syndrome. Another study says inefficient blinking – where your upper eyelid does not cover your entire corneal surface – can impede the layer of fluids designed to nourish and lubricate the eye. This layer of lipids may evaporate completely due to inefficient blinking.
Take regular computer breaks to rest your eyes and avoid computer-related eye strain.
3. Blink More Frequently
Deliberate, forceful blinks help promote eye health and open up glands, according to Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science. But those blinks can seem and look unnatural.
Instead, try practicing normal-looking complete blinks to get the hang of blinking enough.
4. Add Essential Fatty Acids to Your Diet
According to the American Association of Ophthalmology, Omega-3 oils improve the function of the gland that produces tears, and they can naturally reduce the symptoms of dry eye. Omega-3 can be found in:
- Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
- Fish oil supplements
- Flax seeds
- Chia seeds
- Palm and soybean oil
5. Add Vitamins A, B12 and D to Your Diet
A lack of vitamin D has been linked to dry eye. Vitamins B12 and A are also considered vital for eye health.
Other vitamins important for your eye health include:
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin C
- Vitamins B6 and B9
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin
To help with eye issues, you can eat a more balanced diet or add supplements.
6. Drink Less Alcohol
Too much alcohol consumption can be dehydrating, which can affect your eyes. A study by the National Institutes of Health found a connection between alcohol and dry eye syndrome.
Limit alcohol intake, or eliminate it entirely, to see whether it’s contributing to your dry eyes.
7. Stop Smoking
Cigarette smoke has more than 7,000 chemicals, which can irritate eyes. In fact, smokers have double the risk of dry eyes.
Smoking can also change the composition of your tears, which can cause more dry eye symptoms. It’s clear that smoking and eye health don’t mix.
If you’re a smoker, consider quitting. If you don’t smoke, try to avoid environments where there is heavy smoking.
8. Drink More Water
It’s no surprise that drinking water is good for your eyes. That water lubricates your eyes, which allows them to produce tears, focus and everything else they do. Without proper hydration, your eyes can’t clear out debris, blink comfortably or even see without straining.
For proper eye health — and overall health, too — drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day.
9. Get More Sleep
A study by the National Institutes of Health says lack of sleep robs your eyes of tears. That’s enough to cause more issues for those with dry eyes.
Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night. If you’re having trouble sleeping, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services suggests the following:
- Change your daytime routine e.g. exercise in the morning instead of the evening
- Create a comfortable sleep environment, preferably dark and quiet
- Set a bedtime routine, and go to bed at the same time every night
10. Pick the Right Eye Drops
The Mayo Clinic recommends preservative-free eye drops when choosing eye drops to alleviate red eyes.
Eye drops that contain preservatives can cause eye irritation, especially if they’re used more than four times daily. Eye drops for redness may cause your eyes to become even more irritated, so make sure the drops you use are for dry eyes.
You can also look into artificial tears.
11. Use Gels and Ointments
Lubricating gels and ointments coat your eye and bring longer-lasting relief than eye drops. However, these remedies for dry eyes are thicker than drops, so they may interfere with vision and should only be used before you go to sleep.
Gels and ointments come with their own warnings:
- Thicker gels and ointments can interfere with meibomian glands, making dry eye worse
- Long-term use can mask a root cause of dry eye
- Lack of good lid hygiene can cause more eye irritation
- Patients can overuse gels and ointments when they don’t actually need them
12. Change Your Environment
Sometimes low humidity, high winds, dust, air conditioning, or heat and smoke can cause temporary dryness and irritation. Step away from the situation, if you can.
Here are a few ways to reduce eye irritation:
- Use a cool-mist humidifier
- Avoid dry or blowing air, as air conditioning can irritate eyes
- Use filters to block pollutants and allergens
- Keep windows closed
13. Wear Wraparound-Style Sunglasses
Dry eye syndrome can cause another condition called photophobia. It’s an abnormal sensitivity to light. There are several types of eyewear that can help ease your dry eye symptoms and keep it from getting worse:
- Wraparound sunglasses
- Onion glasses, which lock out irritating vapors
- FL-41 filtered lenses and blue-blocking lenses
Talk to Your Doctor
DIY remedies may take care of mild and temporary instances of the condition. If the symptoms persist or get worse, or if you develop new symptoms, it’s time to see a qualified medical eye professional. These symptoms may suggest that dry eye is masking a more serious condition, such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) or inflammation of the surfaces of the eye.
At Barnet Dulaney Perkins Eye Center we have dry eye specialists who are committed to finding the right solution for you. Our doctors are focused on your well-being, preserving your vision and comfort, and helping you manage your long-term eye health. To schedule an appointment with an eye doctor, fill out an online request or call 602-603-4247 today.
In the meantime, download our comprehensive free guide to dry eye treatment to learn more about the condition.