Relieving dry eyes
With age, your eyes make fewer tears. Less tears can lead to dry spots that irritate the eye and reduce vision. Some people produce normal amounts of tears, but the quality of fluid is poor. The tears lack essential components for eye lubrication.
Tears are more than just water. They’re a complex mixture that also includes fatty oils, proteins, electrolytes and bacteria-fighting substances. An exact mixture is necessary to keep the eye surface moist, smooth and clear. When the mix is off balance, tear fluid can evaporate too fast and dry the eye’s surface.
Like any liquid, tear fluid also evaporates when it’s exposed to air. To slow tear evaporation:
- Avoid air blowing in your eyes from hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans.
- Wear eyeglasses or sunglasses on windy days. Safety shields can be added to the tops and sides of glasses to block wind and dry air.
- Keep your home humidity between 30% and 50%.
- Take eye breaks during long tasks, such as reading, that require visual concentration. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Or blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly over your eyes.
- Position your computer screen below eye level. If the screen is above eye level, you need open your eyes wider to view the screen. You may be able to slow tear evaporation between eye blinks if you don’t have to open your eyes as wide.
- Be aware of your environment. The air at high altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes can be extremely dry. When spending time in such an environment, frequently close your eyes for a few minutes to minimize tear evaporation.
- Stay away from people who smoke or from smoky environments as smoke can worsen symptoms of dry eyes.
- Use artificial tears regularly. Apply them even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well lubricated.
If these strategies don’t help, see your doctor. He or she can prescribe medications or other treatments to help conserve or increase tear production.
Do you have a different eye problem? Join the Eye Conditions group for conversations with others who may be experiencing the same eye issues that you are.
Keep in mind, practical health tips like this are par for the course with a subscription to Mayo Clinic Health Letter.