Sometimes the urge to rub or paw at your eyes is too great to ignore. You may have dust or another foreign substance in your eye. But for some, there is an irritating condition that sends millions of people searching for home remedies for chronic dry eye – when the discomfort goes beyond the typical ‘there’s something in my eye’ feeling.
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Causes and Symptoms
Dry eye causes fleeting itchiness, burning or scratchiness that can be accompanied with tearing or blurred vision. The condition can occur due to exposure to blasting heat, air conditioning, or a wave of cold wind. Dry eyes can develop from some of your habits or lifestyle choices, such as spending hours in front of the computer or eating spicy food for lunch. Other causes of dry eye include:
• Certain medications (decongestants, tranquilizers, antihistamines, and birth control pills)
• Cigarette smoke
• Drinking too much alcohol
• The natural aging process
• Air pollution
• Medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, allergies and menopause
However, chronic dry eye is a different story. The 30 to 40 tiny glands located on the rim of each eyelid (called meibomian glands) may malfunction, or become clogged or inflamed. The glands are responsible for producing the oily substance that prevents tears from quickly evaporating away. This is what keeps your eyes lubricated. The most common reason for chronic dry eye is when these glands are affected and the eyes do not produce an adequate amount of natural tears.
Chronic dry eye causes persistent eye irritation that may include unusual sensations or stinging, scratchiness, burning, eye discharge, eye fatigue, blurry vision, and lingering eye pain. Patients often have unusually red or bloodshot eyes because of the symptoms. They may experience discomfort after periods of eye strain (such as after reading a book or sewing) . Some people are at a higher risk for the condition than others, like women over the age of 65.
Dry Eye Home Remedies
When chronic dry eye (also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or dry eye syndrome) is left untreated, some people develop an infection or even experience a loss of vision. This is why it is important to incorporate home remedies for chronic dry eye to make sure the condition doesn’t get out of hand. A few suggestions include:
a) Eye Yoga :
Yes, there is such a thing as yoga for your eyes. Researchers in India have noted that people who follow a yoga program that included guided relaxation and 10 minutes of ‘eye yoga’ experienced 30% fewer eye problems, including dry eyes. The exercises direct an individual to move their eyes up and down, from side to side, and in circles.
b) Hot Compress:
Heat can assist in loosening up and releasing hardened oil in clogged meibomian glands. Apply a hot compress to the eye region for 5 to 20 minutes after heating in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
When done properly, you can massage your upper and lower eyelids in such a way to keep meibomian glands flowing. One suggested technique is to roll your finger or a cotton swab in small circles around each of your eyelids.
d) New Sock and Rice:
You can make a compress for your eyes by adding uncooked rice to a new gym sock and heating it in the microwave for 20 to 30 seconds. Carefully place the sock over your eyes for 5 to 20 minutes (after testing the level of heat). Follow this procedure two times per day.
It’s a known fact that staring at things means you are blinking less often. But, blinking helps produce the tears that lubricate your eyes. When staring at computer screens, smartphones, the television or reading a good book, get in the habit of blinking. According to the Mayo Clinic, incomplete blinking can clog your meibomian glands. When you start to feel dry eyes emerging, practice what is known as a ‘full blink’ – when the upper lid touches the lower. Squeeze your lids together for 2 seconds every 10 minutes.
f) Tuna Fish:
According to the National Eye Institute, eating tuna fish will supply the body with beneficial omega-3 fatty acids that can help increase tear production .
Protect your eyes from some of the irritating effects of Mother Nature by wearing sunglasses in windy conditions. The glasses help shield the eyes and prevent tears from evaporating faster than they are made. Wind is also known to reduce tear production and increase eye inflammation.
The dry conditions that come from heated homes can affect your eyes. Plug in a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
i) Air Vents:
When driving or riding in a car, position air vents so that they are turned away from your face.
j) Contact Lens Care:
If you wear contact lenses, it is important to follow proper care to avoid dry eye issues. Keep in mind that the all-purpose cleaning solutions for contacts can cause irritation. It is suggested to choose a gentler solution for cleaning your lenses. Also, wearing your contacts too much can make it hard for your eyes to ‘breathe.’ You may want to wear your glasses every few days to give your eyes a break from the contacts. When you get home from work, get into the habit of taking out your lenses at night.
k) The Darkness Treatment:
For avid computer users, take breaks from the bright screen where you sit back and close your eyes while cupping your palms over the eyes. Leave your eyes in complete darkness for around 30 seconds, which will help rejuvenate moisture production.
 Prevention magazine; October 2012; pg. 44.