Dry eyes is not a life-threatening health condition, but it can be quite irritating in the literal sense of the term. When people generate inadequate tears it causes dry eyes. You might be wondering why we should even produce tears! Wouldn’t it be better if everyone stayed happy all the time?
Tears play an important role not just emotionally but also physiologically by cushioning and insulating the surface of the eyes. Composed of lipid, mucin, and an aqueous component, tears prevent dust particles and microbes from entering the eye and causing irritation and infection and keeps the eyes moist, smooth and clear to enable us to see clearly. So when the body does not produce enough tears or if there is increased tear evaporation, resulting in dry eyes.
Usually affecting older people because of the aging process, dry eyes are more common in women than men because of the hormonal changes that take place during pregnancy and menopause. But, with the younger generation being glued to electronic devices for long durations every day, close to 50% of the adult population over the age of 18 are affected by dry eyes.
The normal symptoms of dry eyes include
- Presence of a stringy mucus (in the eyes)
- Photophobia or sensitivity to light
- Burning sensation and redness of the eyes
- Itchy eyes with a sensation of having some foreign particle (in the eyes)
- Fatigue (of the eyes)
- Blurred vision that makes reading or driving difficult
- Watery eyes, or reflex tearing, which happens when there is an overproduction of tears in the eyes which is the body’s response to the irritation in the dry eyes. Paradoxically, this watering does not help clear the dry eye syndrome because these tears consist of water and do not have the capability to act as a lubricant.
Dry eyes can cause inflammation and in rare cases even result in permanent damage to the surface of the eye. But worry not, there are simple things you can do to manage dry eyes. Use them as independent remedies or together in combination with one another, but only after first consulting an Ophthalmologist and getting their treatment advice about your condition of dry eyes.
- Try to consciously blink every few minutes.
- At home or at work, use a good quality air filter to reduce the effect of air pollution and add a humidifier to create moisture in dry air.
- When you go out, wear wraparound eyeglasses to protect your eyes from wind and dust.
- Quit cigarette smoke (second-hand smoke is equally dangerous).
- Take frequent breaks from watching electronic devices and rest your eyes with a warm compress a few times a day.
- Try preservative-free artificial tears in the form of drops available over the counter.
- Take in supplements of Omega-3 fatty acids and Vitamin A.
- Lower the intake of caffeine and alcohol and increase the consumption of nutrient-rich foods.
- Get adequate restful sleep to refresh your eyes.