Drying Out After The New Year



“Go on that diet.” “Exercise more.” “Spend more time with my family.” “Save more money.” The start of the New Year gives us a clean slate to work with. While you’re “editing” your 2016 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.

Our eyes are coated by a very complex protective layer of tears. Each time we blink, we recoat 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, blur, itchiness and foreign body sensation. An airplane is known to be a very dry environment. Humidity in flight can be as low as four percent. In our desert, that may not sound that extreme to us. In addition to our dry environment, other factors can affect our tears and our eyes. Wind, air conditioning and fans will greatly increase evaporation of our tears. Working on a computer or reading will typically decrease the rate at which you blink, leading to dryness. Certain skin disorders and diseases will affect our tears, as will many medications (e.g. antihistamines, tranquilizers, diuretics). Smoke, dust, and excessive eye makeup can also irritate our eyes.

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 eyedrop 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) may actually increase dry eye symptoms.
  • DRINK WATER! Although carrying bottled water has become common, most of us do not consume enough of it. 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. Also, if you travel, consider wearing your glasses on the airplane.
  • Increase consumption of Omega-3’s (e.g, cold water fish, fish oil supplements). These fatty acids are not naturally produced by our bodies, and studies are showing that these help to decrease dry eyes, and are also good for our heart, joints and brain.
  • When you work on a computer, take frequent breaks. A new mantra is “20-20-20.” Take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away (or close your eyes and envision you are looking off to the horizon). This is like taking breaks between sets of weight lifting.
  • 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.

If you have questions about specific product recommendations, feel free to email me at stephen.cohen@doctormyeyes.net. In the meantime, these simple steps can help to make 2016 even brighter, clearer, and more comfortable than last year. Now give me 50 and then get back on that treadmill!

Photo credit: Agnes_F via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

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