Drying Out After The New Year

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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

Go on that diet. Exercise more. Spend more time with family. Save more money. The start of the New Year gives us a clean slate to work with. While you’re editing your 2013 list of resolutions, let me add a few small things you can do on a regular basis that will enhance your most precious sense – your vision – and provide you with better comfort as well.

Our eyes are coated by a very complex protective layer of tears. Each time we blink, we re-coat our eyes with new tears that help to maintain the quality of our vision. When this layer of tears is disrupted, we can experience symptoms such as irritation, burning, stinging, heaviness, fatigue, scratchiness, blur, redness, itchiness and foreign body sensation. Because their association with dry eyes is often overlooked, fatigue (especially late in the day), and blur (particularly with complaints of fluctuation of vision) need to be emphasized.

Our environment and lifestyle can contribute to dry eyes. Living in the desert; flying on an airplane; and exposure to wind, smoke, dust, vents and fans can all compromise our tear film. Computer work, as well as certain medical treatments and medications can also impact our tear film.

With that background, here is a list of “dry eye” resolutions:

  • Don’t wait until your eyes hurt to use artificial tears. Keep your eyes lubricated throughout the day. It is akin to preventing a fire rather than trying to put one out.
  • Carry the right type of eye drop with you. Not all drops are the same, and some that claim to treat dryness (those with vasoconstrictors to “get the red out,” and others with certain preservatives) will actually increase dry eye symptoms.
  • DRINK WATER! A new daily standard is to consume one ounce of water for every two pounds of body weight (e.g., a 150 lb. individual should consume 75 ounces of water daily).
  • If you wear contact lenses, make sure you are using the right contact lens solution, and not just whatever is on sale. Some newer solutions will actually help to keep your contacts hydrated during the day. Daily disposable contact lenses could be a worthwhile consideration, where you have a new lens every day. Also, if you travel, consider wearing your glasses on the airplane.
  • If you suffer from dry eyes, moist heat (10 minutes or longer) can help the glands that produce part of the tear film to work better; helping to slow the evaporation of tears between blinks.
  • Increase consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids (cold water fish and supplements such as flaxseed oil and fish oil). These fatty acids are not naturally produced by our bodies, and studies are showing that these WILL help to decrease dry eyes.
  • GET YOUR EYES EXAMINED. If you experience even occasional symptoms associated with dry eyes, there are tests to determine the exact cause and specific treatments that can help. A thorough review of your current systemic meds can help to uncover problems and there are also new prescription medications to treat the causes of dry eyes.

These simple steps can help to make 2013 even brighter, clearer and more comfortable than last year. Now give me 50 and then get back on that treadmill!


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