Dry, itchy eyes are an annoying distraction from your everyday life. What causes them? Many factors, but they all basically boil down to one thing—your tears.
When your eyes aren’t producing enough tears, or your tears don’t have the correct chemical composition, it’s going to cause dry eyes. That’s because in order for your eyes to remain healthy, you need to continuously produce a fresh layer of tears.
Some common causes of dry eye include:
- Environmental factors, such as dry air from heating or air conditioning, or even a long flight in an airplane without enough air circulation
- Reduced blinking and eye strain from close-up work, such as on a computer
- Prescription drugs, especially antihistamines, diuretics and anti-anxiety pills
- Hormonal changes that alter the production of a normal tear film
Contact lenses don’t cause dry eyes, but ill-fitting lenses can increase your discomfort.
What you can do about your dry eyes
Many cases of dry eyes can be solved with simple at-home or over-the-counter treatments, as recommended by the Mayo Clinic1.
Wash your eyes
If you have a condition that causes inflammation of the eyes, it might help to wash your eyes. Run a clean washcloth under warm water and gently rub your eyes. Try using a gentle soap, massaging your fingertips into the corner of your eyelids, then rinse the soap away completely. This may help loosen any debris.
Use artificial tears or eyedrops
For some people, using an over-the-counter eye lubricating solution may eliminate dry eyes altogether. These products are designed to restore your tears when you blink.
Research has shown that taking omega-3 supplements or increasing omega-3 in your diet (e.g., by eating tuna) may support normal tear production, helping to alleviate dry eye symptoms2.
Change your work habits
If you spend most of your day at a computer, try to look away from your screen a few times each hour and remember to blink while working. Be sure to remain hydrated as dehydration can worsen the symptoms of dry eyes.
See a doctor
If the above simple measures don’t work, it’s time to get in touch with your doctor for further help.
1 Diseases and Conditions: Dry Eyes (2012, August 4). In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved March 24, 2014, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/basics/lifestyle-home-remedies/con-20024129.
2 American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery; Eye World: Dry Eye Omega-3 Acids Thought to Benefit Dry-Eye Patients. http://www.eyeworld.org/article.php?sid=3385