Are you suffering from gritty, red, irritated eyes? This may be a sign of dry eye syndrome. Winter is officially upon us, which brings cold, dry weather conditions. Additionally, we pump hot, dry heat into our environment to keep us warm. This combination can cause our eyes a lot of grief during the winter months, on top of excessive computer and smartphone usage.
Artificial tears can provide temporary relief of these symptoms. Our doctors recommend Systane, Blink, or Refesh artificial tears. You can find any of these brands at your local drug store. Gel drops can last a little longer on the eye, but can cause some temporary blurred vision because of the thickness of the drops, so these are usually recommended for nighttime use. Preservative-free artificial tears are good for those that need to use drops more than 4-6 times daily or are sensitive to preservatives. You should consult your eye doctor for proper usage and if your problem is persistent or becomes more severe.
Along with artificial tears, there are other ways to help decrease the symptoms of dry eye. The American Academy of Ophthalmology’s eye health information page, www.geteyesmart.org, gives us a four tips for happier, healthier eyes during these winter months and all year long.
1. Blink. More. Now.
Tears are made up of many elements, including oil. When people blink, they wipe that protective layer of oil over the surface of their eye – and that helps keep eyes moist. Ideally this happens about 14 to 18 times a minute. But put a screen or book in front of someone, and blinking actually slows down. One solution is to remind yourself to blink more using something as low-tech as a sticky note. Or try an app that reminds you to give your eyes a break, following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, look at an object at least 20 feet away.
2. Go nuts. Go fish.
Your eye glands pump out tears that contain oils similar to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. There is some evidence that eating foods rich in fatty acids can help replenish the oils in your eye, too. So try adding walnuts and fish such as salmon to your diet. If you are allergic to nuts or don’t love fish, no problem. Swallow a fish oil supplement to get your fill of good fats.
3. When dry, humidify.
Hot, dry air circulating indoors can absolutely desiccate your eyes. Turning on a desktop humidifier can help keep the local moisture in your work cubicle or home at a more comfortable level.
4. Exit the wind tunnel.
Wind makes moisture evaporate from the surface of the eye faster than normal, which is why people with dry eye should avoid blustery conditions and devices that blow air, such as heating ducts. Steer clear of hairdryers and fans when possible, and if you’re going outside in windy conditions, wear sunglasses or regular glasses to help block that breeze. Your eyes will thank you.
Still suffering? Check with your ophthalmologist to make sure that your dry eye isn’t something more serious (dry eye can be a symptom of autoimmune disorders like Sjogren’s disease). Don’t forget to blink!
Written by Shirley Dang on February 24, 2015
Reviewed by Cynthia Self, M.D., February 25, 2015″