It’s common for people, even if they’re healthy, to experience dry eyes throughout the year. In most cases, dry eyes are at their worst during the winter months. Cold air holds less humidity than warm air, resulting in less moisture in the air.
Dry eyes can happen when you don’t produce enough tears. Tears are made from a combination of water, fatty oils, and mucus, and work to keep your eyes properly cleaned and lubricated. When your eyes get dry, you'll notice they get very watery. That’s your tear glands working overtime to fight off dryness.
Who Gets Dry Eye Syndrome?
Environment and age are some of the biggest factors in dry eye syndrome. Most people over the age of 65 suffer from some kind of eye dryness.
In no particular order, you may be more susceptible to dry eyes if you:
- Are a woman having hormonal changes with pregnancy, taking oral contraceptives, or are postmenopausal
- Take decongestants, antihistamines, or antidepressants
- Have certain medical conditions like allergies, arthritis, diabetes, or thyroid problems
- Wear heavy eye makeup that blocks the glands around your eyes
- Work in especially dry places or places that expose you to wind and smoke
- Wear contact lenses or have recently had eye surgery
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of dry eye can appear in both eyes and include any of the following:
- Stinging, burning, or gritty/sandy feeling in your eyes
- Excessive watering, or prolonged periods of dryness
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- The feeling of having something in your eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Discharge in or around your eyes
- Pain or discomfort in your eyes
How To Prevent or Reduce Dry Eye Syndrome
Two of the biggest changes you can make to fight off dry eyes are in your environment and habits. Here’s a list of things you can try:
- Stop your car heater, fans, hair dryers, or anything else from blowing directly in your face. Although it may feel good, it can make dry eyes worse.
- Wear sunglasses, especially the wrap-around kind, to give your eyes the best protection from all angles when you’re outdoors. (Read: Why you should wear sunglasses during the winter)
- Take frequent breaks from staring at your computer screen or a book you’re reading and close your eyes for a few minutes or look at an object off in the distance. When you’re on the computer, keep your screen lower so when you look at it, you’re looking downward.
- Avoid smoke, whether it’s from cigarettes or fireplaces.
- Use artificial tears or lubricating eye drops. You may have to experiment with different brands. But be aware that sometimes they can make dry eyes worse.
- Reduce how long you wear your contacts at any given time. It’s also important to make sure you properly clean your contacts. (Read: 5 do’s and don’ts of wearing contact lenses)
- Try a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home, especially your bedroom, and other areas you spend a lot of time, like your workspace.
- Eat more omega-3 fatty acids – tuna fish, flax seed, and fish oil are great sources. The body uses fatty acids to create EPA and DHA that reduce inflammation and protect cell membranes in the eyes and the rest of the body. (Read: Omega-3: DHA and EPA)
What To Do If Your Eyes Don’t Get Better
There may be several reasons your dry eyes aren’t getting better despite the changes you’re making. If that’s the case, consider talking to your eye doctor. Prescription medications might be necessary, or you may be taking other medications for health conditions that are causing your eyes to get dry.
If at any point your eyes appear infected, have discharge, or feel uncomfortably sensitive, call your eye doctor as soon as possible.
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.