Having dry eyes is uncomfortable. Your eyes might feel irritated and scratchy or you could even experience blurred vision. Sometimes, people just live with the symptoms thinking they’ll go away on their own or that it’s not that big of a deal. However, if you’re suffering from dry eye syndrome, it is a chronic condition that can be progressive, depending on the cause and how severe it is. Thankfully, there are treatments and home remedies for dry eyes that can help. The team here at the Spectacle Shoppe is sharing how to get relief in our guide to dry eyes.
What is Dry Eye?
Tears are needed to moisturize and nourish the front surface of the eyeballs in order to help you see clearly. When you blink, tears are distributed across the cornea, or surface of the eye. When this happens, debris is washed away, you get the necessary moisture, your risk of eye infection is reduced, and your eyes remain clear. Any extra tears leave the eye from the drainage ducts in the inner corners of your eye. Dry eye is a condition where you either don’t make enough tears or the quality of your tears isn’t adequate to keep your eyes lubricated and healthy.
Tears have an oil, water and mucus layer. The oil layer, or lipid component, enhances lubrication and stops the tears from evaporating too quickly. The water layer, or aqueous component, provides the actual moisture. The mucous layer, or mucin component, spreads the tears evenly across the cornea. If one of the layers is deficient, tears might not spread correctly or may evaporate too soon.. The most common type of dry eye is the result of a deficient water layer. It’s called keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye syndrome.
What are the Dry Eye Symptoms?
Dry eye symptoms can include:
A sensation of dryness
Feeling like something is in your eyes
An aching sensation
A scratchy or gritty feeling
Beyond these dry eye symptoms, in severe cases, the condition can result in damage and inflammation of the eye’s surface, which could be permanent.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Some of the dry eye causes and risk factors, include:
- Gland Dysfunction – There are a number of glands in and around the eye that produce the components of tears. Meibomian gland dysfunction is when the meibomian glands don’t produce enough oil and tears evaporate too quickly, leading to evaporative dry eye. Another cause of dry eye is the lacrimal gland not producing enough of the watery fluid to keep the eye moist.
- Medications – Some medications, including those used to treat allergies, colds, depression and high blood pressure can result in dry eye because they hamper tear production.
- Age – The eyes get dry as part of the aging process. You’re more likely to get dry eye if you’re over the age of 50.
- Hormonal Changes – Women are more likely to develop dry eye because of fluctuations in hormones, which is why it often strikes during pregnancy and menopause or while taking oral contraceptives.
- Medical Conditions – People with thyroid issues, diabetes and autoimmune disorders like Sjögren syndrome, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis often experience dry eyes. Blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids, inflammation of the cornea, and eyelid problems, such as incomplete closing of the eyelid when blinking and sleeping, known as lagophthalmos, also contribute to dry eye.
- Environment – Spending a lot of time indoors exposed to air conditioning and forced air heating or being in windy, smoky or dry climates can cause or exacerbate dry eye symptoms.
- Computer Use – If you spend long hours staring at a screen, you’re less likely to blink, or at least blink fully, which leads to dry eyes because the tears evaporate.
Contact Lenses – Long-term use of contact lenses can cause dry eye symptoms or make existing dry eye worse. This is particularly true for people who tend to wear their contact lenses for longer than recommended.
- Additional Factors – Laser surgery, like LASIK, can lessen tear production and cause dry eye. Smoking is also tied to dry eyes.
How is Dry Eye Diagnosed?
The only way to diagnose dry eye is to visit your eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam. They’ll ask you about your symptoms and your medical history. They’ll also perform dry eye tests, which may include assessing the structure of your eyelids and determining the amount of tears you’re producing, as well as seeing how long it takes for your tears to evaporate. If they diagnose you with chronic dry eye, they can then determine its underlying cause and work with you to find the right dry eye treatment.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
Dry eye treatment will depend on the cause and type of dry eye, as well as the severity. Some common dry eye treatments, include:
- Artificial Tears – For mild cases that are caused by things like computer use. your doctor may recommend over-the-counter eye drops for dry eyes. Using artificial tears, or lubricating eye drops, throughout the day can be a great dry eye remedy. The issue is, there are a dizzying array of eye drops for dry eyes and the viscosity and ingredients you need will vary by situation. That’s why it is best to use the ones recommended by your eye doctor. Thin eye drops are good for using while at school or at work because you’ll get immediate relief and they won’t blur your vision. However, you’ll need to use them frequently. Higher viscosity artificial tears will give you longer-lasting benefits but they can blur your vision for a few minutes and might not be ideal for all situations. They’re usually better for when you’re at home. Some of the gel-like ones are indicated only for bedtime use.
- Prescription Dry Eye Drops – Prescription eye drops for dry eyes, such as Restasis and Xiidra, lubricate the eyes and also reduce the inflammation that’s associated with dry eye syndrome. Unlike artificial tears, these dry eye drops encourage your body to make its own natural tears as well. It’s important to note that many prescription varieties don’t offer immediate relief and can take a few months to work. This is why these types of prescription dry eye drops are usually recommended in combination with both artificial tears and prescription steroid eye drops. The steroid eye drops reduce inflammation and are typically prescribed for short-term use to quickly get symptoms under control. Your eye doctor will go over the possible side effects and weigh the risks versus the benefits with you for prescription options.
Ophthalmic Inserts – Another dry eye remedy that’s been gaining in popularity are inserts, such as the brand name Lacrisert. It’s a small, solid lubricant that’s placed under the eyelid that slowly turns to liquid and keeps the eye moisturized all day long. Usually one insert per day does the trick and patients have less redness, irritation, burning and dryness. Most practitioners reserve inserts for patients with moderate to severe dry eye who haven’t gotten relief with artificial tears.
- Punctal Plugs – Another dry eye treatment for moderate to severe cases is a punctal plug. The plugs are tiny, sterile devices that your doctor inserts into the openings of your tear ducts (puncta) in the inner corners of your eyes. The tears stop draining through the ducts and stay on your eye longer, which helps alleviate dry eye symptoms. Don’t worry; the tears don’t stay forever. They will evaporate eventually. If your eyes get too watery, the doctor can take out a plug or two. The tear ducts can also be surgically closed but the procedure is permanent so it’s best to try less invasive options first.
- Unclogging the Meibomian Glands – As we mentioned before, dry eye can be due to meibomian gland dysfunction. If your meibomian glands are clogged and you’re not secreting enough of the tear’s oil layer, your tears will evaporate too quickly. Your doctor may recommend using warm compresses to help unclog the glands or they can perform an in-office procedure to express the glands.
- Other Treatments – There are other dry eye treatments that your doctor may recommend, including laser treatment with intense pulsed light (IPL), eyelid cleaners, lid massage and more. Every patient is unique and sometimes a combination of treatments is necessary to get dry eye relief.
What are Some Home Remedies for Dry Eyes?
In addition to treatments prescribed by your eye doctor, there are home remedies for dry eyes that can help alleviate your discomfort. Try these self-care tips to reduce your symptoms:
Wear your contact lenses less frequently and when possible, sport your eyeglasses instead. When you do wear contact lenses, go for ones with a shorter wear schedule. A lot of our Vancouver contact lenses customers have found switching to dailies helped.
Invest in a humidifier to amp up the humidity in your home and office. Heating and cooling can make for a dry environment, which worsens dry eyes.
- Stay hydrated by drinking about eight glasses of water per day and eating food with a high water content like fruits and vegetables.
- Wear sunglasses whenever you’re outside and while driving. Wraparound frames are especially good for blocking out the wind, sun and debris.
- When working at a computer, take frequent breaks and be sure to blink fully and often. Try using the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for a minimum of 20 seconds.
Consider nutritional supplements that contain essential fatty acids. Some research suggests omega-3 fatty acids can reduce dry eye symptoms. While more studies need to be done, it can’t hurt to ask your eye doctor about adding a supplement to your routine.
If you’re experiencing dry eyes, make an appointment with your eye care professional so they can help you decide on the best treatment for your needs. If you need a pair of glasses or sunglasses to help you find relief, stop by the Spectacle Shoppe and browse our selection of the best Vancouver eyewear.