Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that occurs when the eye doesn’t produce enough tears or when these are not of a high enough quality to keep the eyes hydrated and free from discomfort.
Eye dryness can affect anyone, despite being most common among women, especially after the menopause, or in those that live in big cities with higher levels of air pollution. Some studies also show that the condition is more common at higher altitudes.
Tips for combating dry eye
Living with dry eye on a daily basis can be uncomfortable, but there are a series of measures that can help to alleviate some of the symptoms of dry eye syndrome:
- Using artificial tears, which can be bought without a prescription. These can normally be applied as many times as necessary (although different types of eye drop will come with different instructions, which should always be read). If you are intending to use these more than once every two hours, then you are recommended to use preservative-free artificial tears.
- The use of lubricating gels, which are slightly thicker than artificial tears. Nevertheless, their thickness can mean that they cause cloudy vision, so it is recommended that they be used an hour before going to bed.
- Avoid air currents, whether natural such as wind, or those caused by devices such as fans or hair dryers, as these can make the eyes even drier. If the cause is external and cannot be avoided (wind) then wrap-around sun glasses that protect eyes are recommended.
- Use humidifiers. Air conditioning and heating can cause dryness to increase. Using humidifiers can reduce atmospheric dryness and help to alleviate symptoms.
- Give your eyes a rest. If reading or watching the TV makes the dryness symptoms worse then you should take breaks to give your eyes a rest and blink more often to recover the lost moisture.
- Avoid smoke. There are many reasons for avoiding tobacco smoke, and one of them is that they can irritate dry eyes and it is actually one of the factors that increase the risk of suffering from this condition.
- The application of warm compresses on the eyes and a smooth cleaning of the eyelids with specific soaps can help to release the oil that accumulates in the eyelid glands. This can improve the quality of the tears. You have to rinse the soap completely once the cleaning is finished.
- Incorporating omega 3 supplements into your diet can, in some cases, reduce the symptoms of eye dryness. This healthy fat can be found naturally in oily fish (salmon, sardines, anchovies) and in linseed. Speak to your ophthalmologists about whether it is advisable for you to take omega 3 and, if so, what the ideal dose and method is.
Eye dryness is a chronic condition but knowing how to control it can help to alleviate symptoms. If eye dryness is causing you great discomfort, we recommend seeing your ophthalmologist who will be able to advise you on the best course of treatment.