Dry eyes in the house – causes and treatments for a common vision problem

woman putting eye drops in her eyes

Dryness may be an asset when telling a funny story or attending a sunny summer party, but when it comes to our eyes, dry can be a serious downer.

Millions of Americans suffer from dry eyes and the itchy discomfort the condition causes.1

Yet some of the main sources of dry eyes, from drug side effects to medical ailments, are still largely misunderstood. Few people realize, for example, that dry eyes can be a syndrome, resulting from a chronic lack of moisture on the surface of the eye.2 This condition can lead to nonstop irritation and swelling.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to treat and relieve dry eyes, some of which may be in your kitchen cabinet. In the following paragraphs we will explore the symptoms of and treatments for dry eyes.

Staring down the symptoms

If your eyes feel like they are wearing tiny wool sweaters, then you likely are suffering from dry eyes. Persistent scratchiness, redness and burning are all common symptoms, as is the feeling that a foreign object is in your eye.

The causes can be far-ranging, however. Dry eyes can result from aging, medical conditions such as lupus, diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis, or as a side effect of medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medicines, and birth control pills.2

If your symptoms persist, you should have your eye doctor test for dry eye syndrome. Tests and procedures that may be used to determine the cause of your dry eyes include: a comprehensive eye exam, a test to measure the volume of your tears, a test to determine the quality of your tears, a tear osmolarity test, and tear samples to look for markers of dry eye disease.3

Treatment and prevention

Remedying dry eye means getting back our tears. Some treatments focus on reversing or managing a condition or factor that’s causing your dry eyes.3 Other treatments can improve your tear quality or stop your tears from quickly draining away from your eyes.3

Fortunately, relief can be relatively easy to come by. Treatment for dry eyes can range from fatty acids to eye drops. As for dry eye syndrome, while the condition is chronic, the symptoms can be managed.

Following are common methods for soothing dry eyes:

Eye drops and lubricants: Your eye doctor may prescribe lubricating eye drops that will either alleviate the symptoms or address tear shortage. Prescription eye drops called Restasis® will help the body produce more tears by reducing inflammation.2 Lacrisert®, a tiny insert placed inside the lower eyelid, releases a lubricating ingredient to the eye throughout the day.2

If you wear contacts, be advised that many eye drops cannot be used while the contacts are in.

Supplements and oils: What works from the outside can also work from the inside. Certain supplements, such as those containing omega-3 fatty acids, have been shown to alleviate dry eye symptoms.2 Salmon, sardines, cod, herring and other cold-water fish are all recognized sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Also, some eye doctors recommend flaxseed oil, which can come in the form of supplements, to relieve dry eyes.2

Simply drinking more water can also help relieve dry eye symptoms. Mild dehydration often makes dry eye problems worse.2

Eye protection: The sun, wind and dust all contribute to dry eyes, as does cold weather. Sunglasses, particularly close-fitting wrap-around frames, will help to keep wind and debris away from your eyes.2

Dryness is seldom a good condition for the human body, whether it involves the eyes or the skin. Treat them the same – stay well hydrated, eat good foods and protect against drying elements. Here’s hoping all your tears are happy ones.

  1. “Chronic Dry Eyes”, Heathline, August 11, 2020, https://www.healthline.com/health/dry-eye/chronic-dry-eyes-statistics-facts-and-you.
  2. “Dry eyes: Causes, symptoms and treatments”, All About Vision, March 2022, https://www.allaboutvision.com/conditions/dryeye.htm.
  3. “Dry eyes”, Mayo Clinic, September 24, 2020, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-eyes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20371869.