Are your eyes constantly irritated and no amount of eye drops can soothe them? You are in good company because an estimated 4.88 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from dry eye syndrome. The condition affects twice as many women as men due to hormone fluctuations. People who have diabetes or who wear contact lenses are also at an increased risk of developing dry eyes.
Ophthalmologists have noted an uptick in dry eye syndrome, or DES, among people who wear face masks for extended periods of time, according to Optometry Times. Experts say that ensuring your mask fits snugly around the nose to prevent air being directed toward the eyes can reduce the symptoms.
Cary Silverman, M.D., the medical director of EyeCare 20/20 located in East Hanover, N.J., tells Newsmax that dry eye syndrome is a disorder of the tear film that covers the eye itself.
“The tear film is composed of water, mucus, and lipid or fat layers,” he says. “These three layers work together to help maintain the health of our eyes and ward off infection. When any part of the tear film isn’t functioning properly, you may start to experience dry eye syndrome.”
The main symptoms include redness, fatigue, or an irritated sensation of the eyes.
“Getting older certainly increases your risk of dry eye syndrome,” says Silverman. “It can also affect women who have undergone hormonal changes such as pregnancy and menopause. Environmental factors such as living in a dry climate, staring at a computer screen for long periods of time without blinking, and wearing contacts can also trigger dry eyes.”
Silverman adds that the symptoms can be exacerbated by changes in the weather. When it gets cold and dry outside, you may feel that your eyes are worse. Other causes include medical conditions such as Sjogren’s syndrome (an immune system disorder characterized by dry eyes and mouth) and lymphoma, and medications such as antihistamines and antidepressants. Alcohol dependence may also trigger DES.
Here are some ways to help soothe dry eyes:
- Avoid smoke. Cigarette smoking can irritate your eyes because the tobacco smoke breaks down the protective, oily layer of tears that cover the eye. Even exposure to secondhand smoke can lead to dry eyes, according to Healthline.
- Limit blow drying your hair. Try letting your hair air dry naturally as much as possible before using a blow dryer. Experts suggest just drying the roots to avoid excess warm air hitting your eyes and causing moisture to evaporate.
- Avoid extreme temperatures and windy conditions. According to an abstract published in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, very low or very high temps, high wind and low humidity aggravate dry eye. The study authors note that incidence increases in arid and semiarid climates, and in high latitudes. Using a ceiling fan in your bedroom can contribute to dry eye, adds Healthline.
- Watch your screen time. We tend to blink less when we stare at a computer screen, which decreases the amount of natural protection our eyelids provide. The glare from the screen can also affect our vision. Silverman recommends purposely blinking while you are working at a computer and taking a break every 15 minutes or so to stare at an object in the distance. Apply eyedrops, such as artificial tears, frequently.
- Practice good eye hygiene. Make sure to remove all traces of makeup at night and gently massage your lids while taking a warm shower to help lubricate the eyes. Apply warm compresses to soothe dry eyes, says Dr. Tamara Maule, a Florida-based optometrist. Maule also suggests the product Avenova. It is a solution that is wiped on the eyelashes and eyelids to prevent infection and inflammation.
- Try an omega-3 fatty acid supplement. Many people report relief when taking an omega-3 supplement or increasing their intake of fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines.
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