Have you ever experienced the following symptoms upon waking, at the end of the day, or after spending several hours at a computer: dry or irritated eyes, tired eyes, stinging or itchy eyes, gritty feeling in the eyes, vision problems, difficulties seeing objects at a distance, or migraines?
All these symptoms indicate that you may be developing dry eye. However, dry eye can also be found in patients who have no symptoms.
Over 1 in 3 people are affected by dry eye. Globally, it is one of the main reasons for visiting an ophthalmologist. The intensity, duration and frequency of dry eye symptoms can all have a significant impact on the everyday life of those affected.
What actions can I take myself if I have dry eye or want to prevent it?
It is important to get into good habits as soon as the symptoms first appear, and maintain these every day, if you want to prevent or decrease dry eye.
Avoid doing things that make dry eye worse:
- Poor eyelid hygiene
- Rubbing your eyes
- Wearing a lot of make-up on your eyelids and eyelashes
- Wearing contact lenses for long periods
- Wearing glasses/lenses with the wrong prescription
- Smoking, exposure to smoke, self-medication
- Heavy screen use
- Poor lighting
- Exposure to cold, dust, pollution
- Driving with the windows down, heavy air con use
- Exposure to wind and sun
- Poor diet
Change your lifestyle and take these simple steps:
- Look after your eyes!
- Clean, heat and massage your eyelids to improve the quantity and quality of your tears
- To prevent the infections commonly associated with dry eye (conjunctivitis, infection of the cornea [keratitis], infection of the eyelids [blepharitis]), try not to put your fingers in your eyes or rub your eyelids. If this cannot be avoided, wash your hands before touching your eyes
- Treat any episodes of sinusitis or related allergies quickly, along with any inflammatory lesions (rosacea and blepharitis)
- If you wear contact lenses, follow the lens care instructions and don’t wear them all the time. Ensure your glasses are the right prescription
- Remove eye make-up fully, using products for “sensitive eyes”
- Choose good quality eye make-up that holds well, so it doesn’t run into your eyes
- Use make-up sparingly and do not apply eyeliner inside the eyes, as it can block the meibomian glands. Apply mascara to the end of the eyelashes, not too close to the eyelids
- Have your eyes and skin checked regularly
- Take care with screens:
- Limit your screen time
- Take breaks of at least 5 minutes every hour when working at a screen, and look into the distance regularly
- Try to blink every 4 to 6 seconds when using a screen or reading
- Do not work at a screen in the dark or with too much light. Ensure the room is well and evenly lit. Natural light is best. Always place a small light behind the screen
- Position your computer screen lower than your eyes, so you are not looking upwards, which exposes your eyes to more air
- Use a screen filter on your computer to reduce the impact of blue light
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle:
- Keep away from cigarette smoke and/or stop smoking
- Exercise your eyes and eyelids: find more information on blinking exercises here
- Wear goggles at night
- Humidify your bedroom
- Get checked for hormone disorders
- Ensure you eat a balanced diet, get enough vitamins (A, C and E) and consume plenty of omega-3 by eating fish
- Drink plenty of water at regular intervals (1.5 to 2 litres per day)
- Keep an eye on the weather:
- Wear glasses to protect you from the cold, dust, wind and sun
- Don’t look at the sun with your eyes open and without sunglasses
- In very hot weather, don’t go overboard with air conditioning: ensure fans are not blowing air into your eyes and limit air con use, as it encourages tear evaporation
If you are taking any medication, check the side effects on the package leaflet and then talk to your doctor about your dry eye problem. Do not stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to.
You can use “artificial tears” to keep your eyes moist. These are available over the counter. Opt for single-dose drops with no preservatives, to reduce the risk of eye infection and irritation. You can use them as often as necessary, once or twice a day or several times per hour. Ask your pharmacist for more information.
IF THE PROBLEM DOES NOT GO AWAY, SEE AN OPHTHALMOLOGIST.