When your eyes are dry it often feels like you have sand in them, right? They are scratchy, sometimes red, and they feel irritated. That is because dry eye can lead to ocular surface roughness, which will also interrupt incoming light and decrease visual clarity. Often your vision will be blurry, or your will eyes feel “lazy”. Even when you’re happy, your eyes are full of tears! More frequent blinking is the easiest way to quickly get some lubrication started. Each time you blink your eyes are being bathed in a fluid that is part water (for moisture), part oil (for lubrication), part mucus (for even spreading) and part antibodies and special proteins that serve to prevent infection. Your lacrimal glands produce oil with the water to prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly, but they draw the water from your body’s limited storage, so you need to help them to produce a healthy volume of tears by hydrating.
If you use a computer or other digital device for extended periods of time, you may experience dry eye. While you are busy staring, you are not blinking. Your eyes are missing the frequent bathing that comes with blinking, and any surface moisture is evaporating. Take rests from your screens when you can. Try to increase your blink rate and keep up your water intake as you work. Amazon has “Onion Glasses”, clear lenses in frames which seal around your eyes and protect
them from onion fumes. These glasses work, as well, to protect your eyes from dryness as you work at your computer.
Common health conditions can cause dry eye. Nearly half of people with diabetes have dry eyes. The development of dry eye is often linked to a loss of nerves in the cornea (neuropathy). Without functional nerves in the cornea, tear production from the tear-producing lacrimal glands is decreased. While rosacea is primarily known as a skin condition that causes facial redness and visible blood vessels, more than half of these patients also develop eye problems known as ocular rosacea. Approximately 80% of patients with ocular rosacea have meibomian gland dysfunction, which causes the eyelids to secrete fewer oils that blend with a patient’s natural tears. Without the oils, the patient’s tears evaporate too quickly, resulting in dry eyes.
Sport can be rough on your eyes. Wind will dry out your eyes very quickly, so sunglasses or other protective glasses will be helpful in windy conditions in skiing, boating, and bicycling.
Sometimes, dry eyes create too many tears. This confusing condition is called reflex tearing. It happens because the lack of moisture irritates your eye. It sends a distress signal through your nervous system for more lubrication. Your body sends a flood of tears to try to make up for the dryness. It’s a lot like what happens when you get sand in your eye, and it runs. But these tears are mostly water, so they don’t act like normal tears. They can wash debris away, but they can’t coat your eye’s surface.
Lubricating eye drops – “artificial tears” – can help alleviate the symptoms of dry eyes, bathing the eyes and washing away foreign materials. Like any hand lotion, some eye drops may feel better to you than others. You may need to try a couple to find the one that’s perfect for you. Over-the-counter drops range from thin to thick liquids, manufactured with or without preservatives, and some are even gels or ointments that stay in the eye longer (you may want to use them only at night as they may cloud your vision a little).
Lubricating eye drops are generally safe to use as often as you need them if they do not have preservatives. Eye drops with preservatives have chemicals that are designed to keep bacteria from growing in the bottles once they are opened. Some people find that the preservatives irritate their eyes, particularly if they have more severe dry eye. Preservative-free eye drops have fewer additives. They are usually recommended for people with moderate to severe dry eye. They are often best for those who use artificial tears more than four times a day.
Eat your way to well-lubricated eyes. Foods with high water content include watermelon, cucumber, cantaloupe, peaches, oranges, strawberries, zucchini, celery, bell peppers and salad greens. Skim milk, plain yogurt and most kinds of broth are also great sources for replenishing water. Adding these foods to your daily meal regimen can help to keep your body – and your eyes – in a good state of hydration. Try this great “anytime” recipe:
Watermelon & Goat Cheese Salad with Citrus Dressing
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp orange juice
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- ¼ tsp salt
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- 8 cups watercress, tough stems removed, or mixed salad greens (5 ounces)
- 4 cups diced, seedless watermelon (about 3lbs with the rind)
- 2 oz goat cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup very thinly sliced red onion
- ½ cup chopped hazelnuts (2oz), toasted
- Whisk oil, OJ, vinegar, salt, and pepper in large bowl until well combined
- Add watercress/mixed greens, watermelon, and red onion
- Toss to coat
- Divide among 5 plates
- Top with goat cheese and hazelnuts to serve
Melon selection & storage: Look for symmetrical unblemished melons, without flat sides, that have a creamy yellow spot on the bottom indicating ripeness.
At 92% water, this fruit should feel heavy when you heft it. Precut melon flesh should be dense, firm and appear moist. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or keep in a cool, dark spot. Cover the cut surface of melon with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
To toast chopped hazelnuts: Toast in a small dry skillet over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 to 4 minutes.
227 calories; protein 5.9g; carbohydrates 13.3g; dietary fiber 2g; sugars 9.2g; fat 18g; saturated fat 3.4g; cholesterol 5.2mg; vitamin a iu 2566.3IU; vitamin c 39mg; folate 26.8mcg; calcium 105.4mg; iron 1.2mg; magnesium 45.8mg; potassium 424.6mg; sodium 192.2mg; thiamin 0.2mg.
1 vegetable, 1/2 fruit, 1 high-fat meat, 2 fat
GCC says: Whatever your favorite activity or the time of the year, keep yourself hydrated and look after those eyes. If you have tried different brands of lubricating eye drops and your eyes are still uncomfortable, talk with your ophthalmologist. There may be other options for safely and effectively treating your dry eyes.
Sources: Thank you to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, WebMD, Dr. Daniellle Robertson, OD, PhD at UT Southwestern, EatingWell Magazine August/September 2005, Healthline.