Dry Eye: Symptoms and Ways to Manage It
Here are some useful tips to keep your eyes hydrated.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Your tears are produced by lacrimal gland located above your eyes. Every time you blink, tears spread across the surface of your cornea to keep your eyes moist. Lacrimal glands failure can result in low tear production and unable to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes, this is when you will experience Dry Eye Syndrome (DES).
Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) is a common eye condition that can make your eyes uncomfortable and increase risk of vision problems. If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, corneal damage and scarring, and permanent vision loss.
Dry eyes symptoms include:
- Red eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Burning sensation in your eyes
- Problems wearing contact lenses
- Excessive tearing
- Blurry vision
- Stringy, white mucus near the eye
What are the causes of dry eye?
- Excessive digital screen exposure. Many of us spend numerous hours a day staring at digital screens, which causes lower blink rate and dehydrated eyes. According to a study, people usually blink 12-15 times per minutes when doing other activities. However, the blinking rate is reduced by half when staring at a screen for long period without taking a break. Blinking less frequently will cause the eyes to feel dry and irritated. This condition is due to insufficient tears spread across our eyes surface which are essential to maintain eyes moisture.
- Too much time in an air-conditioned room. We spend most of our time in air-conditioned environments as AC is a commonly used cooling appliance due to the hot weather in Malaysia. Besides workplace, we often turn on AC especially when we go to bed and while driving. However, air conditioners reduce humidity and cause evaporative dry eye, resulted in eye inflammation and infections.
- Contact lens-induced dry eye. This happen when the contact lenses block partial oxygen from entering the eyes which cause wearers to experience dry, gritty eyes, especially when the lenses are worn for an extended period of time. Besides, insufficient tears or dysfunctional tear film may also increase the friction between the contact lens and the corneal, which lead to dryness and discomfort sensation in eyes.
- Unbalanced diet. Unhealthy diet such as drinking alcohol on a regular basis and consume high-sodium intake such as smoked meat, pizza, salted nuts causes water depletion in your body, affecting the quantity of tears your eyes can produce. Besides, excessive sugar consumption may lead to high blood sugar, resulted nerve damage in eyes which in turn decreased tear production.
- Aging. Inadequate tear produced from the tear glands may due to the natural aging process. Dry eyes are more common in people over 50, especially women during their menopause period due to changes in hormone levels.
- Certain health conditions. Individual with Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, arthritis, allergic eye disease and thyroid problems may also affect the ability of tear gland to produce adequate tears to keep the eyes moist.
Here are 5 ways to manage dry eye:
Take a screen break. Rest your eyes often by blinking regularly when working on the computer, reading, or watching television for long periods of time. You may take a break of about 20 seconds after every 20 minutes you spend on digital devices. This is to help your eyes regain some of the moisture they have lost.
Reduce dryness in air-conditioned room. To prevent eye dryness in air-conditioned room, it is suggested not to let the air current blow directly onto your face, set the temperature above 23 degrees Celsius, place a cup of water in the corner of the room or use humidifier to increase overall humidity in the room.
Refresh with artificial eye drops. Artificial eye drops help to relieve symptoms of dry eye by adding extra fluid to cover the cornea and conjunctiva, which lubricate the surface layer of the eye. Beware to choose wisely between eye drop with preservatives and preservative-free eye drops. Some people may find that eye drops with preservatives cause irritation to the eyes, particularly if these individuals have severe eye dryness. Therefore, you may consider opting for preservative-free eye drops that contain fewer additives if you have moderate-to-severe conditions of dry eyes.
Proper contact lens wear and care. Contact lens wearers are advised to remove the contact lens before going to bed and go contacts-free for a few hours a day to avoid corneal infection due to lack of oxygen. Besides, it is preferable to use daily disposable lenses as extending the contacts’ wear time will cause debris and bacteria that lead to eye infection.
Key nutrients for eye health. Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids that naturally found in foods such as salmon, sardines and flax seeds may help to decrease dry eye symptoms in some people. Besides, lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that keep the cells in your eyes healthy and function well. You may get them by consuming egg, corn, and leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach. Alternatively, you may opt for supplements that contain such key ingredients to ensure your eyes are in healthy condition despite busy lifestyle. It is advisable to consult your doctor before taking any dietary supplements to treat your dry eyes problems.
Taking good care of your eyes isn’t all that complicated. By changing few lifestyle habits, you may be able to get rid of dry eye and keep your eyes healthy, comfortable, and seeing well.