12 Mar Treating Dry Eyes
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes or when they may evaporate too quickly. Our eyes are not meant to be dry, similar to our tongues. In fact, our tongues are always moist, covered in a film of saliva, produced by our saliva glands. The same goes for our eyes, which is always covered in a film of tears. And so when this lacrimal fluid is not well spread, it feels are though there are gritty little grains of sand under our eyelids. Symptoms of this include photophobia (sensitivity to light), burning or itching, excessive tearing, swollen eyelids, the reddening of the conjunctiva (the white part of your eyes), eye fatigue and even episodes of blurred vision.
A Breakdown of Tear Film
Our tear film consists of three important components:
- An oily (lipid) component
- A watery (aqueous) component
- A mucous-like (mucin) component
Each component of the tear film serves a critical purpose. For instance, tear lipids help keep the tear film from evaporating too quickly and increase lubrication, while mucin helps anchor and spread the tears across the surface of the eye.
And so each tear component is produced by different glands on or near the eye:
- The oily component is produced by meibomian glands in the eyelids.
- The watery component is produced by lacrimal glands located behind the outer aspect of the upper eyelids.
- The mucin component is produced by goblet cells in the conjunctiva that covers the white of the eye (sclera).
A problem with any of these sources of tear film components can result in tear instability and dry eyes, and there are different categories of dry eyes, depending on which component is affected.
Some Causes of Dry Eyes
- Heavy reading or excessive digital device use
- Living/working in a dry environment
- Prolonged eye lens wear
- LASIK surgery
- Allergy medications, diuretics, beta-blockers or birth control pills
- Diets poor in essential fatty-acids or anti-inflammatory foods
- Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis or lupus.
- Deficiency of tear-producing glands.
Treating Dry Eyes
Some doctors may recommend to regularly use artificial tear drops to compensate for the lack of lacrimal film, so as to provide more moisture and lubrication for the surface of your eye. Nevertheless, this treatment can be limited as it only offers a short-term solution. Ophthalmologists may also propose to introduce collagen plugs into the lower tear canal, or to cauterise (burn) lachrymal points to retain tears and to lubricate the surface of the eye for longer. But we have decided to provide you with more simple steps to manage dry eyes!
Simple Solutions to Combat Dry Eyes:
- Try to blink every 5 seconds, even if the reflex does not come to you spontaneously and especially if you are staring at your computer/television screen or any digital device for that matter. Always remember to take regular breaks when working in front of a screen; at least every half hour for a few minutes. Blinking is a crucial part of keeping the right amount of moisture in the eye surface, especially during cold, dry weather. It coats the eye with a fresh layer of tears while also cleaning the surface and moisturising it.
- Prevent excessive heat and dryness in your home by adding water to the radiators (water evaporation tanks) and regularly airing out your house. Be careful of air conditioners and electric heaters that dry out air at a much faster rate.
- Hydrate yourself; drink at least 1.5 litres of water or herbal tea (no sugar) every day. If you are dehydrated, the fluid in your eyes can be depleted, so drink lots of liquid!
- Protect your eyes from the wind and sun; always wear sunglasses or protection if you are running or cycling and doing things such as carpentry.
- Take special care with contact lenses. Do not wear them for long periods of time as they can soak up the fluid in your eye. Always be sure to keep them clean too!
In addition to these simple suggestions, take a dietary supplement of Vitamin A, in the form of natural retinol, at a dose of 5000 IU per day. Vitamin A stabilises the cell membrane of the conjunctiva and cornea and so it is essential for a good distribution of the lacrimal film on your eyes.
Sea Buckthorn Oil
Another great remedy to dry eyes is the oil extracted from sea buckthorn seeds (Hippophae rhamnoides), which is rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. A fact, confirmed by the findings of a Finnish study, published in the Journal of Nutrition and led by Dr. Jarvinen. The double blind, placebo-controlled study consisted of treating patients diagnosed with ocular dryness syndrome with this oil, including 86 people between the ages of 20 and 70 years. One group received 2 grams of sea buckthorn oil per day for 3 months. According to the study, those who took the oil supplement had less ocular redness and burning sensation. These results were the same for those who wore contact lens. If you can’t get your hands on sea buckthorn oil, studies have shown that a mixture of omega-3 and vitamin A (retinol) may also help.
4 Exercises To Improve Your Tear Film
Here are 4 simple exercises you can try to improve the quality of your tear film:
- Exercise #1: Close your eyes and place your hands on them. Concentrate for two to three minutes in this position; the darkness and warmth of your hands will have a relaxing effect on your eyes.
- Exercise #2: Hold your thumb out 15 cm in front of your nose, and hold your other thumb 30 cm behind the first. Focus your eye on each thumb alternately so as to train the muscles of your eye.
- Exercise #3: force yourself to yawn three times in a row. This will first tighten and then relax the muscles that surround your eyes. The flow of tears will spread more easily over your eyes.
- Exercise #4: Close your eyes and move them in clockwise direction for about a minute. Repeat for another minute, this time in anti-clockwise direction. This will help to spread the lacrimal film better over your eye.