If you’ve ever had dry eyes, you know it’s nothing to take lightly. They can get itchy and watery and nothing seems to help soothe them. Some people with dry eyes only experience the condition once in a while, but others have much more serious chronic conditions. People who have these conditions, known as chronic dry eye, dry eye syndrome, or dry eye disease (DED) tend to suffer from a lot of discomfort.
Almost five million people in the US alone suffer from the condition, and without treatment, the symptoms increase with age. So, the question then is: What should you do about dry eyes?
What causes dry eyes?
If you suffer from dry eyes, it means you don’t have enough tears to keep your eyes sufficiently lubricated. There are many different reasons for that to occur. It either happens because your tear ducts aren’t producing enough tears or because they’re evaporating too fast. Decreased production often happens with age, but there are other causes, as well. Some medical conditions, such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, lubus, and rheumatoid arthritis can be the culprit. Others include certain medications, laser eye surgery, and tear gland damage.
If your tears are evaporating too fast, that’s another issue altogether. This can be caused by wind, smoke, staring at a computer, or eyelid problems, among other things. This condition is usually temporary and can be fixed by just closing your eyes for a period of time.
Once you’ve figured out what is causing your dry eyes, it’s much easier to find a solution. Natural remedies can sometimes give you some relief from your symptoms. Some people try them before seeking medical treatment, and others use them in conjunction with medical care. Either way, there are a few you can try. First, try using a humidifier if you live in a particularly dry climate. This should help provide some much-needed moisture to your air at home. Secondly, make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep. Watching TV, working on a computer, and reading can dry out your eyes when done for very long. If sleeping is a problem for you, try to find an effective insomnia treatment. Additionally, consider adding an omega-3 supplement to your diet. These can sometimes add needed oil to your ducts to produce lubrication. You can also place warm compresses over your eyes for a few minutes when they’re feeling dry.
In some cases, dry eyes can be treated with over-the-counter eye drops that provide artificial lubrication. Other times, stronger medication might be needed, such as prescription drops or ointments. These treatments sometimes work for temporary dry eye conditions, but they rarely provide much comfort for people with chronic symptoms. If these medications don’t work, your doctor will usually move on to the next step, which could be oral medicines. This might be effective for someone whose dry eye is caused by inflammation or tear duct irritation.
If none of that works, there are plenty of other procedures your doctor may advise you to try. Some can be a little more invasive, but usually work very well. One such treatment for dry eyes is what is known as punctal plugs. These plugs are placed into your tear ducts where they provide moisture for your eyes. Punctal plugs do dissolve naturally after a period of time, but there are others that last a little longer. Semi-permanent tear duct plugs are put in the same way, but they take much longer to dissolve. Both of these methods are entirely safe and effective. Your doctor may also decide to clear out the blocked oil glands around your eyes or prescribe special contacts.
Though rather common, dry eyes can be rather irritating. The good news is that there are quite a few ways to combat them. Whether through natural remedies or medical procedures, you can treat dry eyes to feel –and look– your best.