Although dryness of the eyes occurs more frequently in older individuals, dry eye can affect people of all ages. Not only uncomfortable, dry eye can actually cause damage to your vision. According to the National Eye Institute, almost five million Americans over 50 years of age have dry eye, and tens of millions more experience less severe symptoms. Dry eye syndrome is defined as a condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough tears to keep the eyes moist.
Symptoms of dry eye may include:
- Pain and redness in the eye
- Stinging or burning sensation
- Gritty or sandy feeling as if a foreign object was in the eye
- Inability to cry
- Blurred vision
- Decreased ability to read or work on the computer
- Eye fatigue
To combat the symptoms of dry eye, Americans spend one-third of a billion dollars in over the counter eye drops called “artificial tears.” Drops help temporarily, but they are not a long-term solution. Chronic dry eye causes many people to choose prescription drops which may have side effects such as allergic reactions and blurred vision (Source: Henderson Daily News).
The good news is that you have other options. There are some alternatives to eye drops which are natural and may benefit your overall health. As winter approaches and you feel that familiar sting in your eyes, consider these modifications:
- Reduce screen time. Your work may require you to spend multiple hours in front of the computer during weekdays, but you can reduce symptoms of dry eye by taking regular breaks during the day. You can also cut your screen time after work but limiting the time you spend on your phone and tablet.
- Quit smoking and avoid exposure to cigarette smoke. Toxins in cigarettes dry the eyes, so you will find immediate relief if you avoid cigarette smoke.
- Reduce alcohol intake. Alcohol can be drying to the eyes, so limit alcohol to an occasional drink.
- Try supplements. Omega-3 fatty acids strengthen the oily layer in your eyes, which slows the evaporation of tears. Maqui berry extract (a berry in South America) can help reduce damage to tear glands and enhance tear production.
- Add foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Salmon, walnuts and flaxseeds are three foods that are high in omega-3s and can help prevent tear evaporation.
- Wear your glasses. Contacts can increase eye irritation, so give your eyes a break and wear your glasses more often. This can mean that you take out your contacts after you get home from work, or maybe you wear your glasses several days per week. Either way, you should find relief.