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Self-Help With Dry Eye Syndrome

Updated on February 7, 2017
just helen profile image

I live in Devon, England. I am an activities coordinator in a care home. I play the accordion and teach violin and piano.

Sepulcre Arc-en-Barrois photo by Vassil
Sepulcre Arc-en-Barrois photo by Vassil | Source

Dry Eye Syndrome is a common condition that can occur at any age, for a variety of reasons. It most commonly occurs later in life as part of the ageing process, especially in women of "a certain age."

Three years ago I began experiencing unusual and rather distressing feelings in one, and sometimes both, eyes.

The way I described it at the time was that my eyes felt stiff, or wooden. They didn't seem to move smoothly or comfortably within their sockets, and I was always aware of uncomfortable sensations that came and went—and then came and stayed!

When I was referred to an ophthalmologist for another eye condition (PVD), he immediately told me I had very dry eyes.

That in fact, I had Dry Eye Syndrome.

This was an utter revelation to me, as I had never heard of such a thing. I immediately went home to research the condition on the internet.

The tear system of the human eye
The tear system of the human eye | Source

a. tear gland / lacrimal gland,
b. superior lacrimal punctum,
c. superior lacrimal canal,
d. tear sac / lacrimal sac,
e. inferior lacrimal punctum,
f. inferior lacrimal canal,
g. nasolacrimal canal

There are a variety of causes of Dry Eye Syndrome, including age, prolonged computer use, contact lenses and various medications or health conditions, such as Sjorgens disease.

For me, I believe age is the major factor, as I am over 50. It is quite common in post-menopausal women, although men can be prone to the condition, as well.

Unfortunately, Dry Eye Syndrome is often portrayed as a joke and can be considered a relatively minor condition.

Well, that's simply not true.

Not only is it rather distressing, but if left untreated it can cause, over a number of years, a diminution in visual acuity owing to lots of little scratches appearing on the cornea as a result of friction.

So, it is absolutely vital to keep the eyes hydrated!

Mostly we are unaware of our eyes as they roll about in their sockets, up and down, side to side. We take them so much for granted. They are effortless in their movements, not drawing attention to themselves at all!

Until, that is, things start to go wrong and they begin to dry up.

I have battled for three years with terribly dry eyes and accompanying conjunctivitis, and spent literally hundreds on over-the-counter preparations, which, although they give temporary relief, aren't really a solution to the problem.

Some Useful Tips

So, from bitter experience, I have put together a list of ways to help alleviate the problem of dry eyes:

  • Keep up your fluid intake - drink sufficient water during the day, and if necessary at night too. Eyes often feel especially dry at night.
  • Don't overdo alcohol as it can be very dehydrating.
  • Keep your usage of hot air heating down to a minimum. In fact, any air blowing in the eyes can be a problem, so if it is windy wear eye protection.
  • If you do have to use the fan in the car then wear glasses. I bought a pair of clear glasses without prescription, which are an absolute godsend!
  • Even central heating can dry the eyes out, so use it sparingly. We have a wood burning stove which heats the room without causing eye problems.
  • Steam is very helpful. Either steam over a bowl of hot water, or take a hot bath or shower.
  • Keep the whole of the eye area well moisturised. This really is the best tip of all. If you keep the eyelids well moisturised it will pay dividends, I promise you! I have tried various creams, but most contain mineral oil which is not good for the eyes. Then I discovered a rich olive oil based cream which I smear all over my face and eyelids last thing at night. It really does the trick! My husband swears by coconut oil, so try that if you like.
  • Eat lots of fatty fish. Contrary to popular opinion dry eye syndrome is not so much caused by lack of tears (I can cry!) but the wrong sort of tears- ie they do not contain as much fat in them as they used to. As your skin dries out with age and becomes less greasy, so do the eyes. Fish oils help redress the balance. If you can't abide fish, take capsules instead.
  • Prolonged computer work causes the eyes to dry, so cut down on your usage of the pc, or at least take regular breaks.
  • The same applies to reading, unfortunately, as I love reading. The reason for this is that when we read we tend to stare at the page and our blink rate goes down. Take breaks and use them to consciously blink a lot. This will greatly help your dry eyes.
  • Occasionally the cause of dry eyes can be because of a blocked duct which secretes the lubricant which keeps the eyes moist. In this case it can be helpful to soak a flannel in hot water and press over the eyes for a few minutes. This can help soften and release the blockage.
  • If you find shop bought lubricants helpful then do continue with them, although they are rather expensive. Generally, drops are recommended, but if you can't tolerate putting drops in your eyes (they can sting and some people are allergic) then you can purchase a spray which you spray onto the lids with your eyes closed. NEVER spray into your eyes.
  • If you are a woman who wears mascara then I recommend waterproof. Apply it first before applying the drops or spray. Let it dry out thoroughly before treating your eyes. If you do it the other way around your eyelashes will become greasy and the mascara will flake off into your eyes causing terrible irritation.
  • Enrich your diet with nutritional oils, such as rice Bran Oil, Olive Oil, Pumpkin Oil, etc... I have had great benefit from taking these, and have noticed a VAST improvement in my eyes.

I hope this article has been of help. If it has, please be so kind as to leave a comment. Thank you!

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    • just helen profile image
      Author

      just helen 4 years ago from Dartmoor UK

      Hi mslizzee, thanks for your comments!

      Yes I have pretty much cured my dry eyes, although occasionally I do have a slight problem. But that is usually if I haven't taken good care of my eyes. It is so important to keep them well hydrated. My best tip is the olive oil cream on the eyelids and general eye area, morning and night. I do sympathise with you, it is a horrible condition.

    • mslizzee profile image

      elizabeth 4 years ago from Buncombe County, NC

      Hi Helen:

      Did you conquer your dry eyes?

      I had a severe case of dry eyes. My eyes absolutely poured so much so I couldn't read, or do anything. Also they became inflamed, hot and uncomfortable, very red and wouldn't open all the way.

      I learned how to completely , well 99% cure my eyes of this misery. Anyone interested can email me and I'm happy to share my experience. I was driven to it because I refuse to take prescriptions, so I looked for an alternative.

      I am a senior citizen and my dry eyes were caused by age.

    • just helen profile image
      Author

      just helen 4 years ago from Dartmoor UK

      Thanks for your comment, Moonlake (love the name!). What is Mactel?

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I have dry eyes and I'm sure it is from age but I also have Mactel and that may be causing some of it. I don't really know. I use drops some morning they are so bad. Voted up on your hub.