Do you have something in common with Jennifer Aniston? If your eyes feel like sandpaper at the end of the day, if you find yourself scratching them endlessly, and they almost always look an unappealing red, you do. You and Jennifer Aniston share a common modern affliction: dry eyes.
There are many causes to dry eye syndrome: aging, genetic predisposition, hormone imbalance, contact lenses, environmental issues. Even people with perfectly healthy eyes can develop dryness due two staples of 21st century living: climate-controlled offices and homes and long hours in front of computer screens. According to recent statistics, over 25 million Americans suffer from dry eye syndrome – so you and Jennifer Aniston are not alone.
I see many patients with dry eyes here at Ooh La La Optometry. Many come for a vision exam unaware that their problems – blurry vision, difficulty focusing- are due in great part to eye dryness. Here’s what I recommend to manage and treat dry eye syndrome:
1. Check your environment. Dust, mold, and pollution – all of these can trigger dry eyes. Check the filters of your air conditioner/furnace, and clean or replace them often. Consider investing in a humidifier for your home or work space– Southern California is notorious for its dry weather, especially in the Summer and early Fall months; the low levels of humidity can aggravate the pollution and rage havoc on your eyes.
2. Be kind to your eyes. Long hours in front of computer screens suck the moisture out your eyes. To make matters worse, when staring at screens we tend to reduce the number of times we blink, cutting down on the natural way our eyes keep themselves moist. If you must spend long hours at the computer, take regular breaks – close your eyes, or do a series of slow blinks. If you can, avoid working on computers while wearing contact lenses. Even the most advanced lenses can lower your eyes’ tear levels. You will look great in one ofOoh La La Optometry’s stylish frames!
3. Explore over-the-counter medications. There are plenty of good options for dry eyes on the shelves: lubricant eye drops in bottles and vials and lubricant eye ointments, both medicated and plain. Your eye doctor can recommend the best options for your particular case – for instance, seriously dry eyes may need eye drops during the day and a dab of lubricant ointment in the lower lid, at night. Keep one bottle of drops in the refrigerator- your eyes will thank you for a couple of cool, revitalizing drops (that will also eliminate redness…)
4. Give your eyes a spa day. Compresses are a tried and true way to calm down irritated, dry eyes and give them a moisture boost. Cool compresses – of pure cold water or tea (black, calendula and chamomile are the best) can rest your eyes and eyelids, combating inflammation and reducing redness and swelling. If your eye doctor has diagnosed you with blepharitis (inflamed and clogged oil glands at the edge of your eyelids), opt for warm compresses. Both relax the eyes and encourage moisture balance.
5. Eat well. The antioxidants in Omega-3 fatty acids are good for a lot of things, including your eyes. . A 2011 study found that eating unsaturated fatty acids can effectively treat dry eyes. Aim to eat at least two portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily fish such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel. Other options are capsules of fish, krill or flax oil, taken daily.
6. Consider medical procedures. There are a number of simple procedures that can effectively put an end to dry eyes. Placing punctal plugs in a drainage port in the corner of the eyelid is a simple, common and very effective procedure. For those diagnoses with blepharitis there’s lipiflow, a 12 minute, this in-office procedure that massages out the clogged content of your eyes through the clever application of heat and touch. IPL (Intense Pulse Light), a common tool in dermatology, is now entering as a dry eye treatment since it has been shown to decrease inflammation of blepharitis by reducing the number of blood vessels that accumulate around the eyelids, causing dry eye problems.
Did you just realize you have dry eyes? Schedule a visit to Ooh La La Optometry– we’ll be delighted to help you on you way to healthy eyes!