• Four Ways to Fight Dry Eye

    Written By: Shirley Dang
    Reviewed By: Cynthia A Self MD
    Feb. 25, 2015

    Eyes feeling gritty, red or irritated? Read on for ways to make your eyes happier

    Artificial tears can help moisten your eyes temporarily, but used alone they probably can't eradicate the Sahara-like conditions plaguing some people with dry eye. The hallmarks of this condition (redness, watering and a gritty feeling) can be exacerbated by certain medications or extended time on computers and smartphones. If that sounds familiar, try these tips to help keep your eyes more moist:

    1. Blink. More. Now.

    Tears are made up of many elements, including oil. When people blink, they wipe that protective layer of oil over the surface of their eye – and that helps keep eyes moist. Ideally this happens about 14 to 18 times a minute. But put a screen or book in front of someone, and blinking actually slows down. One solution is to remind yourself to blink more using something as low-tech as a sticky note. Or try an app that reminds you to give your eyes a break, following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, look at an object at least 20 feet away.

    2. Go nuts. Go fish.

    Your eye glands pump out tears that contain oils similar to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. There is some evidence that eating foods rich in fatty acids can help replenish the oils in your eye, too. So try adding walnuts and fish such as salmon to your diet. If you are allergic to nuts or don't love fish, no problem. Swallow a fish oil supplement to get your fill of good fats.

    3. When dry, humidify.

    Hot, dry air circulating indoors can absolutely desiccate your eyes. Turning on a desktop humidifier can help keep the local moisture in your work cubicle or home at a more comfortable level.

    4. Exit the wind tunnel.

    Wind makes moisture evaporate from the surface of the eye faster than normal, which is why people with dry eye should avoid blustery conditions and devices that blow air, such as heating ducts. Steer clear of hairdryers and fans when possible, and if you're going outside in windy conditions, wear sunglasses or regular glasses to help block that breeze. Your eyes will thank you.

    Still suffering? Check with your ophthalmologist to make sure that your dry eye isn't something more serious (dry eye can be a symptom of autoimmune disorders like Sjogren's disease). Don't forget to blink!