Are your eyes dry, irritated, and causing you frustration? These are some of the symptoms of a common condition called dry eye syndrome.
Millions of people suffer from dry eyes, but they may not always seek treatment. Keep reading to learn about dry eyes and for 5 signs your dry eyes need to be treated!
What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is a condition that often occurs when the eyes don’t receive enough lubrication, although there are other causes. For most people, this is due to the eyes not producing enough tears, or the tears produced being low in quality.
Tears are a necessary part of how your eyes stay healthy. Your tears have three layers, known as the tear film. These three layers include:
- An oily layer on the outside
- A watery layer in the middle
- An inner mucus layer
If any of the components of the tear film are missing, your tears can’t coat the surface of your eye. It also makes it difficult to see clearly, since your tears keep the surface of the cornea smooth.
For people with dry eye syndrome, they may experience symptoms like blurriness, irritation, or a gritty feeling, among other things.
1. You find it difficult to wear contact lenses
If you wear contact lenses, you may be used to having dry eyes, especially when you remove them at the end of a long workday. But if it suddenly becomes difficult to put them in or take them out, this can be a sign of something more serious.
Having dry eyes makes it a lot harder to get contact lenses out of your eyes since you need enough moisture to remove them.
2. You always need to use eye drops
Eye drops and artificial tears are great tools when your eyes feel dry and you need quick relief. But you shouldn’t need to use them every hour, or carry a bottle of drops in each bag you own.
You should only need to use them sparingly, at most once or twice a day. If you find that you need more lubrication or moisture to keep your eyes feeling comfortable, it’s time to think about seeing your eye doctor.
You may need something that’s stronger than what you can get over-the-counter.
3. You’ve become more sensitive to lights
Do you find yourself avoiding bright lights whenever possible? Light sensitivity is one of the more discouraging symptoms that you can experience when you have dry eye syndrome because lights are everywhere.
Whether you’re in your home or working at your office, there’s no way to get away from them. It can even become dangerous if you’re experiencing light sensitivity from headlights due to oncoming traffic.
It should go without saying, but if you’re nervous about driving because of light sensitivity, it’s time to see your eye doctor and find out how to treat your dry eyes. At Bausch Eye Associates, we provide our patients with an in-office Dry Eye Center of Excellence.
Depending on your diagnosis and the severity of your symptoms, treatment may include options like lifestyle changes, prescription eye drops, inserting punctal plugs, or iLux. These are only some of the many treatment options that we offer our patients with dry eye syndrome.
4. Your eyes are teary or are watering uncontrollably
Although it can sound counterintuitive, one of the signs of dry eye syndrome is experiencing teary eyes or watery eyes that water uncontrollably. Besides your eyes being dry, you may also find that your eyes are watery.
This symptom, which seems unusual, happens because the tears being produced are low-quality. These are tears that are missing crucial components of the tear film.
They may have too much or not enough water in them, or they may be missing oil. If you’re missing any of the components that make up the tear film, your tears won’t be able to provide your eyes with the nutrients that they need.
5. Your eyes feel itchy or like they have sand in them
Do you suffer from seasonal allergies? Yes, it may be allergy season, but having itchy eyes isn’t always caused by allergies!
If you have dry, itchy eyes, and other symptoms of dry eye syndrome, there’s a good chance it’s due to dry eye syndrome. If your dry eyes are also coupled with irritation, a gritty feeling, itchiness, or your eyes water uncontrollably, talk to your eye doctor.
Allergies are bad enough, but if you also have dry eyes, it’s best to be prepared and have tools available to keep your symptoms at bay.
Can I do anything to treat my dry eyes on my own?
If your dry eyes are bothering you right now and you need temporary relief, you can try some of the following things:
Add more water to your day
Did you know that if you’re feeling thirsty, it’s a sign that you’re already dehydrated? Having dry eyes is a sign that your body needs more water, so aim to drink at least 8, eight-ounce glasses of water every day.
You can even get some of your water from the food you eat, so add in more fruits and vegetables that have a high water content! This includes things like watermelon, cucumber, strawberries, lettuce, and celery.
Try to get more sleep every night
If your eyes feel tired, fatigued, or are even causing you pain, this may be your body’s way of telling you to get more sleep. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, especially on the weekends!
It may feel like you can cheat and sleep in on the weekends, but having a consistent routine is better in the long run, and your eyes will thank you!
Use a warm compress or washcloth on your eyes
For eyes that feel gritty, a quick warm compress or washcloth on your eyes can make a big difference. The key is to keep the water warm so that your eyes are comfortable.
Leave the compress or washcloth on for several minutes to reduce any feelings of grittiness while relaxing your eyes.
Make small changes to your lifestyle
Making changes to your lifestyle may sound daunting, but it’s really not! The point is to do things like buy humidifiers and put them around your home where you spend the most time, like your bedroom and living room.
You can also think about how much time you spend in front of digital devices. If it’s hours on end, you’ll want to carve out short breaks so your eyes can have a minute or two to rest.
You can practice what’s known as the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something that’s about 20 feet away from you.
You should do this for a full 20 seconds. When you’re taking these breaks, don’t forget to blink, as looking at screens reduces your blink rate, which can make your eyes feel dry.
Above all else, remember that these are only temporary fixes. For patients with dry eye syndrome, the best way to understand why your eyes are dry and treat the root cause is to see your eye doctor.
Schedule an appointment at Bausch Eye Associates in Allentown, PA to discuss your dry eye treatment options and find the relief that you’re looking for!