When to seek treatment
Many of us experience a degree of dryness in our eyes at some point – causes may include seasonal allergies or sleep deprivation. While these issues generally clear up on their own, dry eye disease can be more of a concern. Jane Chong, an optometrist at our Richmond Health Centre, explains why.
Symptoms of dry eye disease
Other than the obvious (dryness!), signs of dry eye disease can include:
- Stinging or burning in the eyes
- Constantly fluctuating vision that changes between blinks
- Red eyes, which can be seen around the whites of the eyes and the rim of the eyelids
- The sensation of tired, heavy eyes
- A filmy, sticky sensation around the eyes and eyelids
- Watery eyes, in response to a dry ocular surface.
Treating dry eye disease
Your optometrist can identify your type of dry eye and the most appropriate treatment. Here are some remedies you can also try at home:
- Lubricating eye drops. Artificial tears for dry eye are specially formulated to work on your eye’s surface to restore and retain moisture. You can get them over the counter at pharmacies and supermarkets. Try to avoid drops marketed for itchy or red eyes – these often contain other chemical compounds, such as antihistamines or vasoconstrictors.
- Changing your environment. If you have air-con or a heater blowing directly at your face, this can make symptoms worse. Try to redirect the airflow away from you or sit somewhere else. Using a humidifier in the room can also help.
- Warm compress. Often recommended for a condition called meibomian gland dysfunction, a warm compress can soothe any type of dry eye. Rest a microwaveable heat pack or face washer soaked in hot water over your closed eyes. Make sure it isn’t too hot, to protect the delicate skin around your eyes. You can safely do this several times a day.
- Healthy visual habits. Digital eye strain is a common source of dry eyes. Be sure to take regular screen breaks. Studies have shown that using a screen decreases the frequency and quality of blinks, so try to remember to blink often and fully (where your top eyelid meets the bottom eyelid before opening again). More on managing digital eye strain
Note: If your symptoms persist or get worse, please seek medical treatment.