- Chronic Dry Eyes are very uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition
- It can be treated and prevented naturally with permanent results
- I will discuss various strategies but my favorite which has more than 70% success rate are MSM liquid Drops, Essential fatty acids and Vitamin A, which is must for dry eye patients.
Chronic Dry Eyes or dry eye syndrome is a very uncomfortable and sometimes painful condition experienced by many. No one wants to sit with uncomfortable or painful eyes. It makes working and driving difficult and really impacts the quality of life in general.
At times it can seem like nothing is working, but in this article, I will be giving you information on how to treat and naturally cure chronic dry eyes permanently.
What is Chronic Dry Eyes
Dry eyes simply put is your eyes not being able to retain moisture or lubricate themselves effectively. Our eyes are lubricated by our tears. They contain mucus which keeps our eyes smooth, water and electrolytes in the layer above the mucus for hydration, and on oils top of that secreted by the glands in the eyelids to retain moisture. There are three types of tears:
- Basal tears: These tears are always present in your eyes to make sure that they are kept well lubricated. Every time you blink a layer of basal tears coats your eyes so that they do not dry out.
- Reflex tears: These tears form when something irritates your eye to help get rid of it. They also help to get rid of any bacteria that may be in your eyes.
- Emotional tears: These tears are formed when you cry.
Dry eye is caused by your eye not producing enough tears, particularly the basal tears, or if the quality of your tears is poor meaning they do not contain enough oils, or mucus, electrolytes, or water. When this happens, your eyes can’t be lubricated properly and are prone to becoming irritated. When this condition becomes recurring or never goes away it is called a chronic dry eye.
Symptoms of Dry Eye
Dry eye will usually affect both your eyes. You may experience one or more of the following:
- Scratchy feeling
- Feeling like something is in your eye
- Stinging or burning
- Blurred vision
- Watery eyes
- Thick mucus
- Sensitivity to light
- Trouble wearing contact lenses (though some lenses may help to trap moisture)
- Poor vision at night
What Causes Dry Eye
There are many different causes of dry eye:
- Aging: As we age our eyes start to produce fewer tears.
- Medication: Some medications like antidepressants, birth control, diuretics, decongestants, blood pressure medication, acne medication, antihistamines and Parkinson’s disease medication can cause dry eye.
- Problems with your tears: As mentioned, when your tears do not have the correct balance of water, electrolytes, oils, and mucus, they will not be able to lubricate your eyes sufficiently or help them to retain moisture.
- Medical conditions: Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid problems, lupus and other autoimmune conditions can cause dry eye.
- Vitamin A deficiency: Vitamin A is very important to the health of your eye. Often people with a vitamin A deficiency also experience dry eye and night blindness.
- Hormonal changes: Changes in the eye can occur during pregnancy and even during menopause. In some cases, these changes include dry eye.
- Laser eye surgery (LASIK surgery): Though not too common, one of the side effects of laser eye surgery is dry eye.
- Eyelids that do not close properly: Ectropion eyelids (lids turned out) and entropion eyelids (lids turned inward) are unable to fully close the eyes which can dry them out.
- Dry air: If the air where you stay or work is very dry it can cause dry eye. Dry air can be due to the weather or because of an air conditioner.
- Wind: If you are in the wind a lot or for a long time it can start affecting your eyes.
- Smoke and other pollution: Smoke in the air can also dry out your eyes and irritate them.
- Contact lenses: Wearing your contact lenses for too long can make your eyes dry. In some people, even correct use of contact lenses over time can cause dry eye.
How to Cure Dry Eyes Naturally
1. Stay Hydrated
When your body is dehydrated, it can’t make tears effectively. Drink 6-8 glasses of water per day. Pay special attention during hot days or when you’ve been exercising for an extended time. You will need more water and you may need to include electrolytes in your water or drink a sports drink.
If you are dehydrated you will likely have other signs too:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dry mouth
- A strange taste in your mouth
- Dark colored urine (your urine should ideally be pale yellow)
- Dry skin and lips
If you don’t like water, you can drink unsweetened herbal tea or you can put a slice of lemon, mint, or cucumber in your water to flavor it a little bit. But plain water is important too.
2. Consume Enough Vitamin A
Retinol is the type of vitamin A found in meat and other animal products like liver. This form is the most bioavailable since your body can absorb and use it easily. However, plant foods like carrots, sweet potato, and leafy greens contain carotenoids, most notably, beta-carotene. Carotenoids don’t convert into retinol very well in the body.
If you are vegan or a strict vegetarian, you risk becoming deficient in vitamin A if you eat very little produce containing carotenoids. It is possible to meet your requirements through plant foods if you eat enough, but the amounts may be more than you would usually consume.
People with cystic fibrosis also run the risk of becoming vitamin A deficient even if they do eat animal products as they struggle to absorb fat which is necessary in order for the body to absorb and use vitamin A which is a fat-soluble vitamin, but treatment can alleviate the problem a little bit. A vitamin A supplement will likely be given to you to help you reach your vitamin A requirements.
RDA (RAE stands for retinol activity equivalents):
- 900 RAE for men
- 700 RAE for women
Sources of vitamin A:
- Beef liver: 5808-7082 RAE (75 g)
- Sweet potato with skin: 1096 RAE (1 medium)
- Carrot: 653-709 RAE (1/2 cup)
Don’t exceed 3000 RAE per day because vitamin A is fat-soluble it is stored in the body and the excess is not as easily removed as excess water-soluble vitamins. Save the foods with a higher amount of vitamin A for a few days in the week, not every day.
3. Eat More Healthy Fats
Many people are afraid of eating fat because we were told for years that fat is bad for us. Science has proven that this is not the case.
Fat is necessary to:
- Absorb and use the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K
- Help to maintain cell walls
- Keep the skin hydrated and able to defend itself from irritants
- Help create and regulate hormones
- Regulate the oils in your tears
Eat the following fats:
- Omega 3: Found in mainly in fatty fish, walnuts, and flax seeds. Read more about the amazing benefits of omega 3 here.
- Omega 6: Found mainly in nuts and seeds. Keep your omega 6 to 3 ratio no greater than 4:1 because too much omega 6 causes inflammation and can deplete omega 3.
- Saturated fat: Yes, even saturated fat is necessary. The myth has been debunked, saturated fat does not cause heart disease. Saturated fat is found in animal products and tropical fruits namely palm fruit and coconuts.
If one way that you introduce more fats into your diet is by cooking with them, please be aware that not all oils should be heated. Read here about cooking with oils.
A small study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology showed a 68% decrease in dry eye symptoms in early syndrome patients who took essential fatty acids for eight weeks.
4. Avoid Smoke, Pollution, and Wind
Though it may not always be possible to do this, try as far as possible. Ask people not to smoke around you or quit smoking if you yourself are a smoker. If there is a fire, for example, when they burn the grass between seasons stay inside and close the windows. If there is heavy pollution outside, for example, during Diwali celebrations, do the same or try to limit your time outside.
Sunglasses that wrap around the sides of your eyes may also help to keep the wind out if you are unable to stay inside. When you are inside, try to avoid using your fan. There are toxins inside your home too that can irritate your eyes and impact your overall health. Plants like the snake plant, English Ivy, and aloe vera can help to cleanse the air in your home.
Tips to Keep Cool Without a Fan
In times of extreme heat try to keep cool by drinking cool liquids, wear loose-fitting cotton clothing, drape a wet towel across your shoulders and/or try a small fan that can be directed away from your face.
5. Avoid Dry Air
Switch off the aircon if possible. If it is very hot you can follow the tips in the previous section on how to keep cool. If the air is dry in general, you can use a humidifier to help with that.
6. Wash Your Eyelids and Use a Warm Compress
Use a face cloth soaked in warm water, squeeze the excess water out and put it over your closed eyes can soothe your eyes. You can also soak it in chamomile tea which is very soothing or use the teabags after you have brewed yourself some tea. Do this until the cloth or teabags cool before washing your eyelids. Washing any dirt or hardened tears off your eyelids and your lashes can also help to stimulate the oil glands in your eyes.
Keep your eyes closed while you wash your eyelids at all times. You can use a natural shampoo made without any harsh chemicals or fragrances or your own DIY shampoo. Rinse your eyelids thoroughly when done to prevent any soap residue from staying behind or getting into your eyes.
7. Reduce TV and Computer Time
This may seem like a strange cause, but when we watch television or sit at the computer we often forget to blink. If you wear contact lenses you may notice quicker than someone who doesn’t because your contact lenses will start to dry out and feel uncomfortable. They may even start to stick to your eyeballs a little bit and blur your vision. This will trigger you to blink your eyes.
If you don’t wear contact lenses it can take quite a while for you to realize that you need to blink. Either way, this can lead to your eyes drying out and will make your eyes especially uncomfortable if you are struggling with dry eye already.
8. N-Acetyl-cysteine (NAC)
N-Acetyl-cysteine is one of the components of L-cysteine which is an amino acid and is often used by athletes. It has benefits for dry eyes too. It reduces inflammation in the eyes and can help to get rid of any plaque that forms in the eyes due to dry eyes.
300-1000 mg per day in divided doses can be very beneficial.
Acupuncture can help to stimulate the production and correct the balance of tears which can relieve dry eyes. This study found that acupuncture worked even better than artificial tears did in providing relief and improving the condition of the eyes.
10. Reverse Your Diabetes
Yes, it can be done. Diabetes can, in fact, be reversed by a healthy lifestyle. Some of the effects such as neuropathy (damage to the nerves) are unfortunately permanent, but reversing your diabetes or even just improving your health will take care of dry eye and prevent any other damage to your body.
Start doing these things to see results:
- Eat healthily: Cut out sugar and eat fewer carbs and more healthy fats. This will keep your blood sugar levels healthy and give you more energy. There are foods that are particularly beneficial such as vegetables that contain health-boosting vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Make sure most of your plate consists of vegetables. Minimize fruits as they are high in sugar.
- Get active: If you have the go-ahead from your doctor to exercise, do so. Walking is a great start and if you have painful joints try cycling or swimming since these support your body weight but include low impact strength workouts at least twice a week. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week over time.
11. Use Liquid MSM:
If you have a floater in the eye, those black spots you see in in the eye, you people might see and some people only feel it. It is basically a breakdown of protein tissue in the eyeball. MSM stands for methylsulfonylmethane and they are also available as eye drops. They are helpful in hydrating the eye, cleaning the eye and reducing inflammations in the eye.
Other Health Conditions
There is an autoimmune condition called Sjogren’s syndrome. If your mouth is dry as well, most probably you are suffering from this autoimmune condition. In this condition, the glands responsible for secreting fluid are infiltrated by immune system cells. This includes glands your mouth and your eyes. They become inflamed and the production of water in the eyes and in the mouth decreases causing dry eyes and dry mouth.
Other Solutions for Chronic Dry Eye
These are not natural, but may be options that you can use:
- Artificial tears: These are eye drops that can be bought over the counter at the pharmacy that mimic tears. They can provide some short-term immediate relief and over time they can improve the condition of eyes when used correctly.
- Ointments: Ointments are thicker than eye drops and so provide better relief but can be problematic to use particularly during the day since they can make it hard to see. They are also available over the counter.
Precautions with Eye Drops and Ointments
Eye drops and ointments can be bought over the counter or in severe cases a doctor may prescribe an extra strength formulation or one that has added substances to help treat inflammation, pain and try to bring about improvement in the eyes’ ability to lubricate themselves.
Eye drops and ointments contain preservatives and other chemicals that can cause harm when overused. There are warnings on the labels but most people who use these drops tend to ignore them or not to read them when they feel discomfort. Overuse of eye drops and ointment can make the problem even worse and it is only natural to want to use them every time you feel some discomfort.
What’s more is that they can cause a rebound effect which relieves the symptoms temporarily but when the eye drops wear off then the symptoms come back even worse than before. If you have been given a steroid cream to use on your eyelids because of eczema or psoriasis and relieve the inflammation, never ever put them into your eyes. This will not work and is harmful.
If you do make use of these methods, use them only as directed and use them in conjunction with the tips listed above otherwise they will always stay a temporary solution instead of a permanent solution.
Should You See a Doctor
That is not usually necessary, but if you experience any of the following or have tried all the recommendations above for more than a few days without seeing any improvement, you may need to see the doctor.
Give the doctor a call if you experience any of the following:
- Severe pain in the eyes
- Flaking discharge from your eyes
- Swelling of your joints
- Painful or stiff joints
- Dry mouth
- If you have injured your eyes
Medical Procedures and Prescriptions
In some cases, a part of the eye may not be working correctly and medical intervention is required. It could be a blocked gland or a tear duct that is malfunctioning, for example. Other than eye drops or ointments, the doctor may do the following:
- Unblocking the oil glands: This procedure uses a device that gently massages the eyes to stimulate the oil glands. It may be just as effective to use a warm compress and to gently wash your eyes, however, the studies are not quite clear on which works best.
- Blocking a tear duct: This may seem counter-intuitive, but if the tears escape too quickly it can cause dry eyes. When this happens, the doctor will close the tear ducts fully or partially to prevent the tears from escaping too quickly.
- Prescribe special contact lenses: Some contact lenses are able to trap the moisture in the eyes and relieve dry eyes in that way. Your doctor or optometrist can prescribe these for you.
- Light therapy: Light therapy can help dry eye. Light therapy uses lights of particular wavelengths to encourage the body to heal itself. In this case, it can be used to heal dry eyes. The eyes will also sometimes be massaged as well to stimulate the oil glands.
- Tear inserts: This is a form of artificial tears but in the form of a small insert that is put into the corner of the eyes under the lids and dissolves slowly to keep the eyes lubricated.
- Tears made from your blood: Your own blood can be used to make tears by removing the red blood cells and adding salt water. This is usually only done if nothing else works.
- Chronic dry eye is also called dry eye syndrome
- Symptoms include redness, scratchy or irritated eyes, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, and blurred vision.
- Eye drops and ointments are only a temporary solution and can make things worse if used incorrectly.
- You may need to see a doctor if you develop other symptoms such as swelling in the eyes, severe pain in the eyes, joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, or if you have injured your eyes.
- Dry Eye can be treated and prevented naturally by staying away from smoke and pollution, staying out of the wind, limiting time in front of the computer and television, staying hydrated, consuming healthy fats, and making sure you get enough vitamin A.
- Warm compresses and gentle massaging of the eyelids can stimulate the oil glands to secrete oil like they are meant to.
Have you had dry eye? What worked for you?
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[accordion_item icon=”” title=”Sources”]
- What are Tears Made Of? Four Fascinating Facts About Tears
- Dry Eyes
- Dry Eye
- Vitamin A
- When to see your doctor for dry eyes
- Why You Should NEVER Use Visine or Cleareyes