Tears protect your eyes from dust, infections and pollution. And therefore, those with chronic dry eye, caused by either a decrease in tear production (the prescription drug Restasis helps this) or tears that evaporate too quickly, may notice their eyes are frequently so dry they hurt, sting or feel gritty. In addition, chronic dry eye can lead to blurred vision, heightened sensitivity to light or smoke/pollution, excessive tearing, or like someone took sandpaper and rubbed it on them. There are a number of causes of chronic dry eye including Lasik surgery, thyroid disorders, and certain autoimmune diseases (including Sjogren’s syndrome, which causes drying of the mucus membranes including the eyes, mouth and sinuses). If left untreated chronic dry eye can lead to irritation, inflammation, blurred vision, increased risk of developing an eye infection, and scarring of the cornea.
How can you soothe chronic dry eyes? Follow these steps:
- First and foremost – see an ophthalmologist.
- Drink plenty of fluid every day.
- Eat fatty fish at least twice per week or consider a fish oil supplement (always tell your physician about any dietary supplements you are taking). I typically recommend at least 1 gram of EPA + DHA combined (check the label to see how much EPA and DHA the product contains per serving; EPA and DHA are the omega 3 fatty acids found in fish). Two grams decreases inflammation throughout the body.
- Consider caffeine in moderation. One study found that caffeine may help increase tear production.
- Cut down on antihistamine use if possible. Allegra, Zyrtec and other antihistamines can increase dryness. Decongestants also increase dry eye so weigh the benefits versus side effects before using them.
- Use eye drops for dry eyes (not those for redness).
- Put warm compresses on your eyes for 10-15 minutes at a time.
- Cut down on diuretics unless they are prescribed by your physician.
- Talk to your physician about all of your medications. Certain blood pressure drugs, birth control pills and other prescription medications can increase dryness.
- Take breaks from the computer, TV, iPad and other electronics. Starring at these for hours may further decrease tear production.