When you have dry eyes, the first response to alleviate the dryness is often to reach for some eye drops (artificial tears), or the more recently heavily promoted eye sprays. These treatments can be effective, however there are some simple, more natural alternatives. Unlike drops and sprays, these alternatives won’t cost you a cent and you don’t need to worry about the use by date on them.
Ditch the drops! Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/freedigitalphotos.net
If your dry eyes have been caused by spending too much time in front of a computer or too much time in an air-conditioned environment, here are four healthy hints to try:
1. Blink more often – when you spend time in front of a computer screen or television, you blink less often. Blinking stimulates the release of fluids that naturally lubricate the eye. Making a conscious effort to blink more can help maintain this layer of moisture. So if you work in an office staring at a computer screen all day, don’t forget to take a regular blink break. I’m sure the boss will be sympathetic.
2. Put some bowls of water around the home or office – this will increase the humidity in the air and reduce the likelihood of dry eyes caused by air-conditioning or dry climate conditions.
3. Use a hot flannel towel – heat on the eyelids can stimulate the production of lubricating fluids from glands in the eyelids. Run a flannel hand towel under hot water, squeeze out the excess water and hold it onto your eyelids for a couple of minutes. You can also use a wheat bag to the same effect, as long as you make sure it is not scalding hot.
Heating up a flannel towel under a hot water tap to help manage dry eyes
4. Gently massage your eyelids – after using a hot flannel, gently massage your eyelids by running your index finger along the lids from beside your nose towards your cheek bones. Do this three or four times for each eye. This massaging action also stimulates the release of lubricating fluids from glands in your eyelids. Make sure you only use gentle pressure, as you can scratch your eyeball if you rub an un-lubricated eye too vigorously if there is any grit in the eye.
These treatments are suitable for people with dry eyes caused by environmental factors or mild blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids, often caused by bacteria). These treatments are not suitable for irritated eyes caused by exposure to chemicals or a foreign object in the eye. For people with mild blepharitis, a daily washing of the eyelids with a sterile lid washer is usually undertaken before using the hot flannel. If your optometrist or ophthalmologist diagnoses you with blepharitis and wants to treat you every day, make sure you ask them how to do it at home by yourself to save yourself the inconvenience of visiting them every day and to help keep public health costs down.
In some cases dry eyes can create further complications, particularly if it leads to scratching the eyeball or if it is both chronic and severe. If in doubt, consult your health care professional for advice specific to your condition and remember that the quicker you respond to dry eyes, the less likely there will be any complications.