The eye depends on the flow of tears to provide constant moisture and lubrication to maintain vision and comfort
Tears are a combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies and special proteins, for resistance to infection. These components are secreted by special glands located around the eye. When there is an imbalance in this tear system, a person may experience dry eyes.
Having dry eyes is a very common problem. Let’s start by looking at the role of tears in your eyes, and then we can address why there aren’t enough of them and what you can do about it.
Your tears are in charge of lubricating your eyes and giving them the protection and moisture they need to remain healthy and comfortable. The main purpose of your tears is to coat the cornea, the clear covering on the front of your eye.
Tears are complex and consist of three main layers. The mucus layer helps keep the moisture attached to the eye itself, the aqueous layer carries vitamins and minerals to the cornea, and the oily layer prevents too many tears from evaporating.
When your tear supply starts to dry up, your eyes can burn, itch, feel gritty, look bloodshot, or (ironically) water more than usual. Over time, this can develop into a chronic problem aptly called “dry eye syndrome.”
Without proper treatment, chronic dry eyes can result in infection, scarring, or vision loss.
There are many external causes of dry eyes such as medications, indoor heaters, and air conditioners, overexposure to computer or TV screens, or contacts that need to be replaced.
But there are also biological causes such as allergies and aging. Aging is a common cause of dry eyes in older women because of hormone fluctuations, but men can also suffer from age-related dry eyes.
When it comes to finding a treatment for your dry eyes beyond just using eye drops, eating more vegetables, and drinking more water, here are some alternative options:
Ask your eye doctor if punctal plugs are right for you. These are tiny, biocompatible devices inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage and increase the eye’s tear film and surface moisture.
Run a humidifier in your home to increase the moisture in the air and your eyes. Remove any fans that may be intensifying the dryness while you are asleep.
Lay a warm, wet washcloth across your eyes for about 1-2 minutes for quick relief.
Include more fish or omega-3 fatty acid supplements in your diet. The oils will help to keep more moisture in your eyes.