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Dry eyes is a common problem that can cause eye irritation, itching and discomfort. In most cases, it is quickly resolved and does not require medical intervention: the eyes produce tears to lubricate the outer layer and keep it clear of infections. But sometimes, the quantity and quantity of tears is not sufficient, which can lead to dryness.

Dry, windy conditions can sap tears from the eyes and cause dryness. Staring too long at a screen and not blinking enough can also have this effect. As you age, tear production decreases—this is another common reason for dry eyes. People who wear contact lenses for prolonged periods can also experience dryness of the eyes. In other cases, underlying conditions such as diabetesautoimmune diseases or tear gland inflammation can be responsible for dry eyes. Some drugs, like antihistamines, can also cause dry eyes.

(Read more: Eyelid inflammation (blepharitis))

There are many home remedies you can try that should bring you relief quite quickly. However, if the dryness does not improve or you notice symptoms worsening, get in touch with your ophthalmologist.

  1. What to eat for relief from dry eyes
  2. Try over-the-counter teardrops or artificial tears
  3. Adjust the microclimate in your room
  4. Limit gadget time
  5. Quit smoking for relief from dry eyes
  6. Use a warm compress for dry eyes
  7. Other practical remedies

What you eat affects your health in a myriad of ways. Your eye health is no exception. Here are some changes you can make to your diet, to manage dry eyes:

  • Increase your vitamin A intake: Research has shown that low levels of vitamin A (vitamin A deficiency) are correlated with dry eyes. Carrots and broccoli have a high amount of vitamin A and should, therefore, be incorporated in your diet.
  • Have more omega-3 fatty acids: According to research, omega-3 fats help the meibomian glands in the corner of the eyes produce a healthy oil film which prevents eye dryness. Fish, walnuts and flaxseed are examples of foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fish oil supplements can also have the same effect, as fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, and eicosapentaenoic acid, or EPA.
  • Stay hydrated and eat fruits and vegetables with large amounts of water: Fruits and vegetables like watermelons and cucumbers have a large amount of water in them, so they can help you stay hydrated. This helps in tear production. In addition to this, drink more water during the day, and not just when you’re thirsty.

Over the counter (OTC) teardrops, or artificial tears, do not require a prescription, are cheap and easily available. They bring relief by mimicking the lubricating effect of tears on the eye. Most OTC tears contain hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, which moistens the eyes and even prevents damage in the case of some eye diseases.

You can do this by using a humidifier in your room. Dry air will dry out your eyes. In the winter months, when the air is dryer, you may notice that you have dry eyes more often.

Use a humidifier in your room to keep moisture level high. Alternatively, you can keep a bucket of water next to your heater since this will have a similar effect as well.

Reduce screen time: Staring for too long at a screen without blinking will dry out your eyes since tears will evaporate at a greater rate. The remedy is simple: just close your eyes for some time and take a break, and consciously try blinking more through the day. 

It is a good idea to quit smoking if you have perpetually dry eyes. Here's why:

  • Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals—their smoke is a known eye irritant.
  • The use of tobacco is a risk factor for many chronic diseases, which also affect the eyes.
  • Research has shown that cigarette smoking increases the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, and optic neuritis.

A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology in 2016 found a significant association between smoking and dry eyes in the general population.

Use a warm compress: Take a clean towel, dunk it in warm water and then squeeze the excess water out of it. Close your eyes and gently massage your eyelids in a straight line from one end of the eye to the other end. This will relieve swollen eyelids and unclog oil-producing glands that are a part of tear production. Do this for at least one minute and repeat as necessary throughout the day. 

In addition to using the remedies mentioned above, you should:

  • Use protective eye equipment: Windy and dry conditions will make your eyes dry. If you are out in such an environment, consider wraparound sunglasses since they protect the eyes from the elements, and prevent water loss and irritation due to particulates. 
  • Make sure your laptop is not above eye level: You will notice that if your computer screen is above eye level, you will have to strain your eyes more and open them wider to focus on the screen. Placing the screen just below eye level will mean your eyes are not open as wide, which may reduce the level of evaporation.
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References

  1. Xu L., Zhang W., Zhu X.Y., Suo T., Fan X.Q., Fu Y. Smoking and the risk of dry eye: a Meta-analysis. International Journal of Ophthalmology, 18 October 2016; 9(10): 1480-1486. PMID: 27803868.
  2. La Rosa, et al. Allergic conjunctivitis: a comprehensive review of the literature Ital J Pediatr. 2013; 39: 18. PMID: 23497516
  3. Kari, et al. Updates in the treatment of ocular allergies J Asthma Allergy. 2010; 3: 149–158. PMID: 21437049
  4. Frings, et al. Red Eye: A Guide for Non-specialists Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017 Apr; 114(17): 302–312. PMID: 28530180
  5. Isaac Baba. The red eye – first aid at the primary level Community Eye Health. 2005 Mar; 18(53): 70–72. PMID: 17491745
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