You've been working on your computer for long hours. You just can't seem to concentrate because your eyes seem dry as a desert. Sometimes, they even feel scratchy and uncomfortable. It feels like you have a particle of dirt lodged in your eye that you just can't seem to get rid of, no matter how much you rinse or rub your eyes.
Does this sound familiar? If it's happening to you, then you're probably suffering the same effects as many other people in the world. This is called dry eye syndrome and according to a survey done in America, one out of five people may be suffering from it. And the figures are on the rise!
So common is this eye ailment that eye physicians have to treat a good many patients for it.
Dry eye syndrome is the chronic lack of sufficient moisture and lubrication in the eye, which causes subtle yet constant irritation. It would even result in ocular inflammation of the front tissues of the eye in more serious cases.
Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome
First and foremost, the older you get, the more likely it is for your eyes to be prone to this syndrome, due to the normal aging process of your body. This is especially common for women during menopause, when the body starts to produce less oil – some 60% less at the age of 65 than at the age of 18 – and this makes lubricating tears evaporate more rapidly than it used to. As a result, the cornea is left dehydrated in many areas, and the eyes feel dry.
Certain medications like antihistamines, anti–depressants, some blood pressure medications and birth control pills can cause dry eyes. Physical problems like thyroid conditions and diseases like Parkinson's and Sjögren's are also causes.
When it's hot, dry or windy, or at high altitudes – and environmental factors like air–conditioning, dry heating, dust and cigarette smoke, can cause dry eye syndrome.
When working long hours on the computer, the eye is constantly focused on the screen and neglects to blink enough to lubricate itself, causing an uncomfortable dryness.
In some cases, long term contact lens usage can be a cause of dry eye syndrome – in fact, dry eyes are a rather common complaint amongst contact lens wearers.
Dry Eye Syndrome Symptoms and Signs
Some of the obvious signs of dry eye syndrome include the persistent dryness, scratching and burning in the eyes. You might also experience the feeling of having a foreign particle lodged in your eye. Oddly, watery eyes can also be a sign of dry eye syndrome. This is because the eye works to overcome excessive dryness by over stimulating the production of the watery component of your tears.
Some people may also experience redness of the eyes, and an increase in discomfort after periods of activity which require the eyes to focus, like watching television, reading and working on the computer.
How To Treat Dry Eyes
While dry eye syndrome, depending on the cause, can be an ongoing condition that may not be permanently cured, the dryness and itching that accompanies it can be subdued.
Artificial tears – essentially lubricating eye drops – may be prescribed by the doctor to alleviate that dreaded dry and scratchy feeling. Not all eye drops are effective against dry eye syndrome – many off the shelf varieties simply soothe the redness of the eyes rather than treat the cause of the redness – be it environmental irritation or some other cause.
If you wear contact lenses, make sure you pick the type of eye drops that can be used with contact lenses. Note that many kinds of eye drops, especially artificial tears, cannot be used while you are still wearing your lenses. Rewetting drops, specially formulated for contact lens wearers, is usually sufficient for temporary relief against mild cases of dry eyes.
Quick Remedies for Dry Eyes
Remove your contact lenses
If you wear contact lenses for long periods, give your eyes a rest. If you have dry eye syndrome, your contact lenses could feel uncomfortable in your eyes. The constant rubbing of the lenses against the conjunctiva could aggravate the condition. And pick super moist contact lenses with a high water content, to keep your eyes well lubricated.
Rest your eyes
When reading, watching television or working at the computer, stop periodically – about once every 20 minutes – to give your eyes a break and remember to blink!
Protect your eyes
If you suspect that, your dry eye syndrome is being caused by the environment – that is, if you smoke or work in a smoky place, live in a particularly dusty or dry city – then take steps to reduce your exposure to these elements. Wear sunglasses whenever you head outdoors. Proper sunglasses, with adequate UV protection lenses and protective wraparound frames, not only shield your eyes from the sun, but also give an added layer of protection against wind, dirt and dust particles in the air. At home, use an air cleaner to filter out dust and mould particles in the air. If your home is air-conditioned or heated, get a humidifier to add moisture.
Pick the right eye drops
Artificial tears can offer temporary relief. But pick the thicker formulations as these remain in the eyes longer and you'll need to reapply them less frequently. And use only the preservative–free, commercially prepared formulations.
Use a washcloth compress
Soak a washcloth with warm water, squeeze out the excess moisture and place it over your close eyelids for 10 minutes several times a day. This helps to unclog the oil glands in the eyelids to free the flow of oil in your eyes, thus keeping them lubricated naturally.
Avoid direct air-conditioning
Sit away from blasting air vents or turn the vents away from you. Heating or air-conditioning can dry out your eyes quickly.
How to Relieve Dry Eyes