Every time we blink, our eyelids spread tears over our eyes to lubricate, moisturize and wash dust and debris from them. Tears are secreted by specialized glands located around the eye and are essential for their maintenance and health. Tears are made up of a combination of water (for moisture), oil (for lubrication), mucus (for even spreading) and antibodies (to resist infections). If there is an imbalance in our tear production system, we can suffer from dry eyes.
People who have dry eyes often experience burning, itching or irritation that tends to worsens as the day goes by. Some individuals describe the sensation as if there is something in their eye. Other indicators of dry eye include redness, scratchiness, blurred vision that improves with blinking and excessive tearing.
It is estimated that approximately 10 million Americans suffer from dry eyes. In fact, it is the number one reason people see their eye doctors. There are many reasons why someone can have dry eyes. Bottom line, it occurs when we don’t have enough tears, the composition of our tears is incorrect, or our tears are not lubricating our eyes correctly.
Of the many causes, the most common one is aging. As we age, we can experience an oil deficiency in the body. Oil is a necessary component of tears, and without it the water in our eyes can evaporate too fast. Hot, dry or windy climates, rooms that are air-conditioned and even cigarette smoke can dry out the eyes as well. Individuals who wear contact lenses are also at a greater risk, as are people taking antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills and certain types of blood pressure medications. If you notice discomfort after periods of reading, watching TV, or working on the computer, you may be suffering from dry eyes, too.
At times, people who suffer from dry eyes have structural problems of the eye, an eyelid disease or a deficiency of tear producing glands. Dry eyes may also be a symptom of a systemic disorder such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorder, vitamin deficiency, Parkinson’s disease or Sjogrens disease. Recently, evidence has come to light that hormone replacement therapy, pregnancy, lactation, menstruation and menopause may also increase symptoms of dry eyes.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural and alternative health remedies that can be used to help reduce and eliminate dry eyes.
Recommendations for wellness
Avoid rubbing your eyes.
Remember to blink. Blinking helps spread your tears more evenly. This is especially important when reading, watching TV and working on the computer.
Keep your indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent. If you find that the air in your house is dry, try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Consider buying an air filter to pull dust and other particles out of the air, which may be irritating your eyes.
Don’t direct hair dryers, car heaters or fans towards your eyes.
When outdoors, wear sunglasses, especially the wrap-around kind, to reduce your exposure to the sun, wind and dust.
If you wear contact lenses, try wearing your lenses fewer hours each day. You can also talk to your eye care practitioner about switching to a different type of lens.
Check your medications for any possible side effects that may cause dry eyes, or talk to your doctor to see if they may be contributing to your symptoms.
Purchase "artificial tears" at your local drugstore. Avoid the kind that "get the red out," because they won’t do anything to relieve the itching, burning or other symptoms associated with dry eyes.
For women, only wear waterproof eye makeup. This can help to avoid irritation. Also, when applying mascara, only apply it to the tips of the upper eyelashes and refrain from using any makeup on the lower lids or lashes.
Supplement with essential fatty acids such as omega 3 oil, flax seed oil or evening primrose oil. Studies show that essential fatty acids can decrease dry eye by keeping the mucous membranes of the eyes lubricated.
Eating foods rich in vitamin A or supplementing with vitamin A can help to keep the eyes moist.
Eyebright or Nature’s Sunshine’s EW can be used topically as an eyewash. It has good astringent and antihistamine properties.</BLOCKQUOTE>