Dry eyes describe a condition where the eyes do not make enough tears or do not produce the right type of tears. The eyes need to be nourished and lubricated, a role played by tears, which helps maintain the eye's health and provide clear vision. In dry eyes, tear production does not equal tear drainage. Symptoms include redness, sensitivity to light, blurry vision, watery eyes, burning sensation, and a stringy mucous near the eye.

Dry eyes can be temporary or chronic, mostly affecting older individuals. Temporary dry eye is caused by environmental factors such as exposure to wind, dry weather, or smoke. Overwear of contact lenses can also cause dry eyes. Chronic dry eye is caused by an underlying condition such as a skin condition around the eye area, eye gland diseases, diabetes, eyelid inflammation, thyroid problems, and rheumatoid arthritis. Certain medications, like blood pressure drugs, can cause dry eyes.

Administration & Dosage

Managing the environment
One way to avoid chronic dry eye is to avoid being affected by environmental factors that cause dry eyes, such as cigarette smoke. Wind can be avoided by staying indoors or wearing protective eyewear when engaging in activities like cycling. A humidifier can help add moisture to the environment. Moisture can also be added by placing a pan of water near a radiator or heat. Filtering dust and other particles helps to clean the air and prevent dry eyes.

Use of warm compresses
Dry eyes may be caused by meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD), a condition where the glands get clogged. The eyelids become inflamed and flaky, blocking the glands leading to dry eyes. A clean, wet, warm washcloth can be used to loosen the clogged oils and provide relief.  The washcloth is soaked in warm water, wrung out, and placed over closed eyes for about one minute. The affected person also squeezes out the clogged oils using the finger. The procedure is repeated a couple of times and is performed two times a day or as directed by the physician. Warm compresses help to reduce inflammation, even when one feels better, and improves the quality of tears.

Cleaning the eyelids
Another home remedy is to wash out the crusty eyelashes. Using the fingertips and mild soap or baby shampoo, the person gently massages the closed eye near the eyelashes’ base. One can also use an eyelid cleanser without preservatives. The surrounding skin and hair should be cleaned as well. Cleaning helps keep eyelid inflammation in control.

Blinking exercises and taking breaks
More blinking helps with dry eyes. The individual is encouraged to blink more often when staring at a computer. The 20/20 rule should be followed where one closes the eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Setting the computer screen below eye level is another way to induce blinking and keeping the eyes moist. This keeps the person from opening the eyes wide, an action that slows tears from evaporating between blinks. One can also take frequent breaks from the computer, reading, or watching TV since people blink less frequently during these activities.

Dietary supplements and other foods
Eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids is a way to treat dry eye disease by reducing inflammation. This allows the production of more and better-quality tears. Foods rich in acids include sardines, tuna, salmon, mackerel, and trout. Literature has shown that healthy fats assist the meibomian glands to function better and relieve irritation. Others are vegetable oils (such as soya bean oil and palm oil), flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnut. Omega-3 fats are also found in tablets or pills, but one is advised to consult the physician before taking any supplements.

Research has shown that specific vitamins can help alleviate dry eye syndrome symptoms. For instance, a lack of vitamin D can cause dry eye symptoms. Eating a balanced diet containing vegetables, meat, dairy products, and fruits can help with dry eyes. Foods rich in Vitamin B6, B9, C, and E, as well as thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and lutein and zeaxanthin, have been shown to assist in dry eyes.

Some people should avoid foods that influence an inflammatory response which can affect the eyes. Examples include nuts, gluten, dairy products, etc. One can try avoiding these foods for at least a month and see whether the inflammation goes down.

Staying hydrated
Keeping the body hydrated, including the eyes, is another way to treat dry eyes. The affected person is encouraged to drink at least ten glasses of water throughout the day. One does not have to wait to be thirsty to drink water since thirst may indicate that one is dehydrated. Drinking water helps to keep the eyes moist. Foods rich in water, such as watermelons and cucumbers, can help, as well as liquids without caffeine or alcohol for those who do not like plain water. It is easy to tell if one is dehydrated by the color of the urine. If the urine has no color or is light yellow, one is not dehydrated.

Nonprescription medications
Nonprescription medications can help alleviate symptoms of dry eyes. Some artificial tears can help bring relief. The artificial tears may or may not contain preservatives. Those with preservatives help prevent bacteria from growing once the bottle is opened. People who react to artificial tears with preservatives or use the tears more than four times daily should use preservative-free tears. Drops without preservatives come in single vials where each vial is discarded after use. Those who use eye drops more than four times per day would do well with non-preservative eye drops. Ointments can also be used since they provide long-term relief for patients with dry eyes. These ointments coat the eyeball and are best used before bedtime.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions

The side effects and interactions depend on the particular remedy. For instance, artificial tears ointments can cause cloudy vision. Artificial tears can also cause blurry vision, itching, eyelid crusting, redness, eye pain, and so on.  If the compresses are too hot, they may cause a burning sensation.

Symptoms of Overdose & Storage 

Overdosing on artificial tears can have severe and life-threatening side effects.