“Dry Eye” may sound like a simple and harmless eye problem, something we just shrug off as a seasonal thing that will pass like the common cold. However, dry eye is more harmful than you think. Advanced dry eyes can lead to corneal scarring that will affect how you see things permanently. Know 7 simple things you can do at home to improve dry eye!
1. Improve your environment. Studies have shown that sitting in an air-conditioned environment may exacerbate dry eye symptoms by causing your tears to evaporate. The best thing to do is to change your working environment to avoid direct air-flow towards your eyes. Another recommendation is to increase the humidity of the room to promote excretion of oils inside our eyelids, which can stop our tears from evaporating.
2. Defocus! When we are concentrating on the computer or an iPad we tend to blink a lot less than we should. During a blink our lids act as window screen wipers to distribute new tears evenly across our eyes! It is a good idea to take frequent breaks every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds.
3. Become a masseuse. Okay, not really. But did you know that warm compresses and lid massages can help with dry eye? Warm compresses help unblock the glands along our eyelid. These glands secrete oils which help stop our tears from evaporating. Warm compresses are done with a towel soaked in hot water. Place the towel on your closed eyes for 5 minutes. Sometimes the towel can lose its heat, so make sure you resoak that towel to keep it warm!
Alternatively, you can use a Bruder Eye Mask which is easy to use and designed to stay at the correct temperature for 5 minutes. Once the lids are warm, do a lid massage by looking downwards. Roll a cotton bud vertically along your top eyelid. Then look upwards and do the same for your lower eyelid, as shown in the picture to the left!
4. Start using eye drops–or use them more frequently! Many people only use lubricant eye drops once or twice a day as needed. However, in actual fact, we need to use them at least 3 to 4 times a day. Currently there are many different types of eye drops on the market, which all work in different ways to help stabilise our tears. Depending on the severity and type of dry eye, the optometrist will recommend either a liquid, gel or ointment formula for aqueous deficient or evaporative dry eye.
Liquid formulas provide quick relief of common dry eye symptoms including grittiness, soreness or any watery eyes. Because they are not as thick, they do not affect vision. Liquid formulas are generally recommended for mild dry eyes. Moderate to severe types of dry eye might require a gel or ointment formula. These formulas are longer lasting as they are quite thick. However, as a result, they do cause your vision to be blurry. The optometrist might recommend you to use two types of eye drops–a liquid formula during the day and a gel/ointment at night to prevent blurring of vision.
Therefore, it is best to see an optometrist for a dry eye assessment so they can advise you on the best type of eye drops you need to use.
5. Lid cleansing. If you wake up in the morning with sticky lids, yellow crust flakes on your eyelashes, itchy eyes (not from allergies) or leftover makeup, then lid cleansing is for you! Clean your eyelids to prevent these materials on your eyelashes or eyelid margin to fall down onto your tears and become debris, creating a gritty sensation.
As a part of your morning and night routine, clean your eyelids with a foam cleanser and lukewarm water. Make sure you wash your hands, then close your eyes and gently rub the foam side to side with your fingers. Rinse your eyes with water after you’ve rubbed the foam across your eyelids as shown below.
6. Does something smell fishy to you? Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can help promote tear production and stabilisation. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found naturally in food sources such as oily fish. Try your best to avoid farmed fish, unless organically grown. Fish oil supplements are also good as they contain purified and concentrated fish oil.
There are many different types of fish oil. Research shows that triglycerides omega-3 are the best type of fish oil to improve tear osmolarity and break up time (stability) at a daily intake of around 1600 mg a day. Make sure to carefully read the ingredients to see the type of fish oil in your supplements. Alternatively, high potency dry eye formulas are available. They contain a number of nutrients scientifically proven to increase lipid production.
7. Sunglasses. Sunglasses are a great way to provide protection against the harsh environment. Wrap-around sunglasses will protect your eyes from the wind, which can exacerbate dry eye symptoms by causing your tears to evaporate. Additionally sunglasses can also protect the front of your eye from UV damage. This UV damage can alter the front surface of the eye by creating bumps. These bumps prevent the eye from efficiently distributing tears during a blink (as mentioned above).
These are simple steps you might already be doing to protect your eyes. Are you happy that these can help combat dry eyes too?