Are your eyes red or sensitive to light? Do they sting or feel tired or scratchy?
You may have dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes occur when your eyes create poor-quality tears or don’t produce enough tears. If dry eyes are left untreated, the symptoms are not only bothersome, but they can also affect the overall health of your eyes and lower your quality of life.
Keep reading to learn how to get a handle on your dry eyes!
Dry eyes occur due to different reasons that affect a healthy tear film. Your tear film consists of three layers: the mucus layer, the watery layer, and the oily layer. You can only have healthy tears if the components of these layers are in sync with each other.
The mucus layer is the innermost layer of your tear film. It’s produced in the conjunctiva.
The conjunctiva is the transparent membrane covering the white of your eye. The mucus layer helps tears stick to your eyes.
It also evenly spreads the watery layer over the surface of your eyes, keeping them moist and well-hydrated.
The middle or watery layer is made in the eyelids’ tear glands or lacrimal glands. This layer keeps your eyes nourished and lubricated and eliminates unwanted particles.
The oily layer is the outer layer of the tear film. It’s made in the meibomian glands, found along the edges of your eyelids.
The oily layer seals the tear film, which prevents your tears from evaporating too quickly.
These layers work together to ensure you have clear, healthy vision. A problem with any of these layers can result in dry eyes.
Common signs and symptoms of dry eyes include:
- Eye fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Eye pain
- Watery eyes
- Double vision
- Experiencing a gritty or sandy feeling
- Sensitivity to light
- Burning or stinging sensation
- Mucus around or in your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
You may experience dry eye syndrome due to the following reasons:
Your eyes need oxygen to remain healthy. They receive oxygen from the air.
Oxygen enters your eyes through the cornea. But contact lenses sit on your cornea.
If you wear contact lenses too long, they can prevent enough oxygen from reaching the cornea and cause dry eyes, particularly towards the end of the day.
Windy, dry, smoky, or dusty environments can increase tear evaporation and cause your eyes to feel dehydrated.
Staring at your computer, laptop, smartphone, tablet, or TV could contribute to your dry eyes. The harmful blue light emitted by digital screens can irritate your eyes.
Your blink rate may decrease if you use digital devices. Blinking less often causes your tears to evaporate quickly, drying out your eyes.
Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelids. It develops when the meibomian glands become blocked and inflamed.
When these glands are blocked, they can’t release the oil necessary to stop your tears from evaporating rapidly. In turn, this causes your eyes to dry out.
You may be able to find relief from the unpleasant symptoms of dry eyes with these at-home remedies.
Over-the-counter eye drops can support and increase tear production. Increasing the number of tears will keep your eyes moisturized and alleviate your dry eye symptoms.
If you have dry eyes, it could be because your meibomian glands are blocked. A warm compress can open blocked glands, release oils into your eyes, and relieve any feelings of dryness.
It can also increase blood circulation in your eyes, which encourages the production of more tears. To prepare a warm compress:
- Dip a clean cloth in warm water.
- Wring out the cloth so water doesn’t drip and place it over your closed eyes for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Press the washcloth gently along the edges of your eyelids to remove blocked oils.
- Once the cloth starts to cool down, soak it in warm water again and repeat the same process. You can do this for 5 to 15 minutes, several times daily, until your eyes feel moisturized and comfortable.
Omega-3 fatty acids can prompt your eyes to produce more tears and the meibomian glands to secrete essential oils. More tears and oil lubricate your eyes, prevent your tears from evaporating too quickly, and ease the dryness you’re experiencing in your eyes.
Some rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids include:
- Chia seeds
- Flax seeds
- Fish oil supplements
- Fatty fish like tuna, sardines, and salmon
If you spend a lot of time in front of digital devices, try the 20-20-20 rule. To follow the rule, take a break from your device every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Regular breaks will help your eyes relax. While resting your eyes, remember to blink intentionally. Deliberate blinking is one of the main ways your eyes remain lubricated and healthy.
A humidifier in your home and office will add much-needed moisture to the air. The humidity will keep your tears from evaporating too quickly and improve your dry eye symptoms.
If at-home treatments don’t provide the relief you want, it may be time to see your ophthalmologist at Eye Physicians of Long Beach. Your treatment plan may include the following depending on the severity and cause of your dry eyes:
Restasis and Xiidra are FDA-approved prescription drops commonly used to treat dry eyes. They help your eyes increase tear production and reduce inflammation from dryness.
BlephEx is an effective, in-office procedure for dry eyes. During the BlephEx treatment, your eye doctor will move a soft, medical-grade sponge across your eyelids.
The sponge effectively removes biofilm, bacteria, and bacterial toxins, the primary causes of blepharitis and inflammatory dry eye. Before the treatment begins, your ophthalmologist will apply numbing drops to your eyes for maximum comfort. The procedure takes about 10 minutes to complete.
Regular BlephEx treatments will allow you to live free from the unpleasant and chronic symptoms linked to blepharitis and dry eyes.
TrueTear is a drug-free, drop-free treatment that utilizes neurostimulation technology to boost tear production. The handheld device emits small energy pulsations encouraging your eyes to produce tears.
Increasing the natural tears produced offers considerable relief to people with severely dry eyes. TrueTear is designed for home use but can only be purchased with a prescription.
LipiFlow is a device that uses pressure and heat to open and clear blocked meibomian glands on your eyelids. Unblocking these glands allows them to secrete the oil needed for a healthy tear film.
During the procedure, the LipiFlow device is slipped under your lids. Your eye doctor will then apply heat to your inner and outer lids and massage your lids from the outside using LipiFlow. This action unblocks the meibomian glands, allowing them to return to their normal functions.
No bigger than a rice of grain, a punctal plug is a tiny device used to block your tear duct and reduce the number of tears that drain from your eye. Doing this allows more tears to remain on the surface of your eyes, which keeps them lubricated and relieves symptoms of dry eyes.
Your eye doctor can implant temporary or permanent punctal plugs based on your needs.
Many factors can leave your eyes feeling uncomfortable and dry. If at-home remedies don’t alleviate your symptoms, the expert team of ophthalmologists at Eye Physicians of Long Beach can help. We’ll get to the bottom of what’s causing your dry eyes and provide a treatment plan that will bring lasting relief.
Do you suspect you have dry eyes? Schedule your appointment today at Eye Physicians of Long Beach in Long Beach, CA, to start your journey to more comfortable eyes!