Dry eyes, also known as dry eye syndrome, occurs when your tears are not providing enough lubrication for your eyes. This can cause a lot of discomfort and produce several signs and symptoms.
Some signs and symptoms of dry eyes are a stinging or burning sensation in the eyes, stringy mucus in or around your eyes, sticking together of eyelids when wakin up, increased sensitivity to light, redness in the eyes, a sensation of having something in the eyes (especially when wearing contact lenses), difficulty driving at night, and blurred vision or eye fatigue.
Dry eyes can be caused by both medical and environmental factors.
Usually, dry eyes are caused by a lack of adequate tears. Not tears from crying, but rather the tears produced by tear glands to keep the surface of your eyes smooth and clear, as well as helping protect your eyes from infection.
Your tear glands may produce inadequate tears as a result of aging, a medical condition (diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency), certain medications, laser eye surgery and tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation.
At times, an increase in tear evaporation or an imbalance in the makeup of your tears can also cause this problem. This can be due to exposure to wind, smoke or dry air; hot blowing air; high altitude; reduced blinking while concentrating on some work like while driving or working at a computer; and some types of eyelid problems.
Certain risk factors can increase your chance of having dry eyes. These include being older than 50, being a woman (due to hormonal changes), chronic allergies, sleeping with your eyes partly open, wearing contact lenses, eating a diet that is low in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.
If left untreated, dry eyes can lead to complications like increased risk of eye infections and damage to the surface of your eyes.
There are many simple home remedies you can use to deal with this uncomfortable eye problem in a natural way.
If you choose to use eyedrops (artificial tears), gels or ointments to treat dry eyes, it is best to consult your doctor first.
Here are the top 10 ways to get rid of dry eyes naturally.
1. Frequent Eyelid Washing
People with dry eyes tend to constantly rub their eyes, which should be avoided to reduce inflammation. To relieve this discomfort and maintain proper eye hygiene, it is recommended that you wash your eyelids a few times a day.
- Put a few drops of baby shampoo on your clean fingertips.
- With your eyes closed, gently massage your eyelids near the base of your eyelashes.
- Rinse the soap completely from your eyelids using lukewarm water.
- Do this once or twice a day.
2. Warm Compress
A very comfortable way of dealing with dry eyes is using a warm compress. The heat from the compress increases blood circulation to the area and promotes the formation of tears.
It will also soothe eye irritation and provide relief from the symptoms.
- Soak a clean, lint-free cloth in hot water and wring out the excess water.
- Hold this warm, moist cloth over your closed eyelids for up to 10 minutes at a time (not more than that). Be sure to rewet the cloth with warm water when it cools.
- Finally, give your eyes a nice rinse with lukewarm water.
- Use this treatment at least twice daily until your symptoms subside.
Note: When using a compress for your eyes, maintain a temperature of 108 degrees Fahrenheit and do not go above it.
3. Castor Oil
Castor oil also helps reduce symptoms of dry eyes.
The ricinoleic acid in the oil works as an anti-inflammatory agent that helps relieve itching, irritation, burning and pain associated with the condition. The oil can also help reduce tear evaporation.
A 2002 study published in Ophthalmology reports that castor oil eyedrops are effective and safe in the treatment of meibomian gland dysfunction, one of the causes of dry eyes.
The study found that castor oil eyedrops help alleviate symptoms due to improved tear stability as a result of lipid spreading, the prevention of tear evaporation, and the lubricating effect of the oil eyedrops themselves. Meibomian glands are tiny oil glands located in the tarsal plate of the upper and lower eyelids
Another study published in 2007 in Cornea analyzed the efficacy of a 1.25 percent castor oil emulsion and a 0.32 percent hypromellose solution on the tear physiology of patients with mild to moderate dry eye. Researchers found that the oil-water emulsion was more effective in reducing tear evaporation than the hypromellose after repeated application over one month.
To use castor oil to treat dry eyes:
- Buy pure, organic, hexane-free castor oil.
- Using an eye dropper, place one drop of it in each eye.
- Repeat twice daily to keep your eyes moisturized and reduce redness.
4. Eat More Foods Rich in Omega-3s
Dry eyes can be due to a lack of essential fatty acids in your diet, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s help reduce inflammation in the body and also stimulate tear production and higher quality tears.
In addition, these fatty acids are an important component of fat molecules, which keep your eyes healthy.
A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology concludes that omega-3 fatty acids have a positive role for dry eye syndrome as well as in certain medical conditions, such as blepharitis and meibomian gland disease.
- Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids in your diet. Good sources of this nutrient include fatty fish and fish oils, ground flaxseed and flaxseed oil, chia seeds, sesame seeds, almonds, and walnuts.
- You can also take omega-3 supplements, after consulting your doctor.
5. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil can act as a rewetting agent for your eyes and play a key role in reducing the symptoms of dry eyes.
While the composition of fatty acids in it helps a lot, it also acts as a protective layer over the tear film layers to help reduce tear evaporation. Plus, it has anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the discomfort caused by dry eyes.
A 2015 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine concludes that virgin coconut oil acts as safe rewetting eyedrops and shows no significant difference in the measurable parameter compared to commercial brand eyedrops and saline. However, further investigation should be done to determine its efficacy for dry eye therapy.
- Soak a cotton ball in coconut oil. Place it directly on your closed eyelids for 15 minutes. Use this remedy at regular intervals throughout the day.
- Also use coconut oil to do oil pulling, daily in the morning on an empty stomach to remove toxins from your body that could be contributing to dry eyes.
6. Blinking Exercise
Regular blinking can improve the flow of tears to help moisten the eyes and also spread the tears to the sides of the eyes. This in turn will reduce your symptoms of dry eyes.
It will also improve blood circulation to the eyes and reduce eyestrain. In fact, each blink brings nutrients to the eyes’ surface structures, keeping them healthy.
Perform this blinking exercise 5 times at least every hour for a couple of weeks. You can then reduce the frequency to at least 4 times a day.
- Close your eyes fully and count to 2.
- Then, squeeze the eyelids together and again count till 2.
- Finally, open your eyes and count to 2.
These full blinks will help wash your eyes fully with a fresh layer of tears.
Also, make a conscious effort to blink your eyes more often when using your computer or mobile devices. Apply the 20/20/20 rule, that is, for every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something that is at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.