In honor of National Dry Eye Month, let's talk about dry eye care today.
About 5 years ago, I noticed I was no longer able to wear mascara without looking like a raccoon. At the time, I didn’t EVER leave the house without mascara on so to have to even consider setting it aside was a big change.
Not long after I noticed I couldn’t tolerate wearing contacts. After years of needing to take them out as soon as I got home from the hospital, I found that I would blink them out about halfway through the day.
So what did I do?
I switched to wearing my glasses and moved on… I was a busy new doctor mom and didn’t have (make) time to get checked out.
Did I mention that doctors are notoriously terrible patients?
In hindsight, this was one of the ways my Sjogren’s presented. Key symptoms of Sjogren’s are dry eyes and mouth.
That being said, dry eye is super common so thankfully not all dry eye is caused by Sjogren’s.
What does dry eye feel and look like?
- Stinging, burning or scratchy sensation typically in both eyes.
- Increased mucus around the eyes (a.k.a. eye boogers or crusting)
- Watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Eye redness
- Difficulty tolerating contact lenses
- Trouble with nighttime driving
- Blurred vision or tired eyes
Did you know that sometimes dry eye presents as eye watering?!
When production of “normal” tears decreases the body tries to compensate by making more tears. Unfortunately, the quality of the tears changes and is not as long lasting or moisturizing thus leading to increased eye watering.
It is not uncommon for dry eye to present very similarly to allergic symptoms.
What causes it?
- Decreased tear production caused by aging, conditions like Sjogren's, medications, laser eye surgery or tear gland damage
- Increased tear evaporation caused by dry or windy conditions, smoke exposure, blinking less often (like when we watch/read on screens), eyelids not closing all the way
- Imbalance in tear composition- due to clogged Meibomian glands (sweat glands for your eyes).
Allergy medications can worsen dry eye. See a board certified allergist to help sort out the cause of your watery irritated eyes.
I have had significant improvement in my dry eye symptoms by adopting an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some simple tips you can try to ease your dry eye symptoms.
What to do about it?
- Take breaks from looking at the screen all day.
- Use artificial tears. In particular, look for formulations that are preservative-free.
- Stop smoking and avoid smoke exposure.
- Minimize air blowing in your eyes from hair dryers, wind, or fans.
- Add moisture to the air with a humidifier or consider wraparound glasses.
- Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet to increase your omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating fatty fish, walnuts, and/or taking a supplement.
- Lid scrubs with a gentle cleanser AM and PM can help unclog the Meibomian glands.
- Avoid irritants in the eye area including makeup and chemical sunscreens.
- Wash your hands with soap and water often.
We touch our eyes all the time without thinking and this transfers irritants and potential allergens to the eye area. Plus, the antibacterial hand sanitizer stings!
Also, it is incredibly important to go for regular eye check ups with your eye doctor (ophthalmologist). They can also advise on whether specific prescription eye drops or minor surgical procedures may be indicated or helpful for your dry eye symptoms.
Are you ready to start optimizing your health through your nutrition?