Dry eyes are a common complaint, causing irritation and itchiness, which can quickly become a nuisance. Although occasionally they can be a sign of an underlying medical problem, it’s usually down to a lifestyle issue that is easy to fix. This article outlines four causes of dry eyes, which aren’t related to any disease, and four simple but effective ways of soothing the discomfort.
Tired and itchy eyes aren’t always a sign of poor sleep or an underlying medical problem. Although there is a condition called dry eyes syndrome, which requires medical attention, irritated eyes are most often a result of less serious lifestyle issues, which can be easily dealt with. Here are four of the most common causes of dry eyes in everyday life.
One of the major causes of dry eyes is a mild potassium deficiency, which leads to not enough tears being produced to keep your eyes comfortable. This causes itchiness, stinging, and blurred vision. Other symptoms of potassium deficiency include weakness, fatigue, and muscle cramps. So, if you experience a combination of these problems, ask your doctor for a test to confirm a deficiency or rule it out.
Don’t simply begin taking potassium supplements without seeking medical advice, as too much potassium in your blood can lead to serious heart problems. However, it’s a good idea to increase your potassium intake by eating healthy foods such as bananas, baked potatoes with skins, tomatoes, and spinach. Taken in natural amounts, your kidneys will flush away any potassium excess with no problem.
Dry eyes can also be caused by a lack of omega-3 oils in your diet. More seriously, in the long term, an omega-3 deficiency has been linked to eye problems including glaucoma, so it’s important to eat plenty of foods containing these healthy fatty acids.
Excellent Omega-3 sources include nuts, oily fish such as tuna or sardines, and also green leafy vegetables. Fish oil capsules and other omega-3 supplements are entirely safe to take without medical supervision, but a healthy diet is always the better option, when possible.
If you suffer from hay fever or similar allergies, you may often take medication such as antihistamines to reduce the symptoms. Unfortunately, trying to stop your excessively watering eyes in this way can sometimes overshoot, leaving your eyes dry and itchy. If this becomes a regular problem, ask your doctor if you can reduce your dose or switch to a different type of medication.
Lastly, one of the most common non-medical causes of dry and itchy eyes is the overuse of computer screens. While this is unavoidable for many people, thanks to their employment, you can reduce the effects by taking regular breaks from the monitor. Every 20 minutes or so, give your eye muscles a rest by looking at a distant object for around half a minute.
Also, reduce the screen’s brightness and contrast to a comfortable level, which neither dazzles you nor leaves you squinting. Importantly, in an office environment, take care to balance your coffee consumption with mineral water, so that you don’t become dehydrated.
Relieving the Symptoms
Although you should seek a medical opinion if your eyes are constantly dry and itchy, if you have no underlying medical problem then dealing with the symptoms is the only way to provide relief. Here are four simple ways of soothing the discomfort.
The Old-Fashioned Method
The old ways are often the best. For immediate relief from itchy eyes, take five minutes to rest, placing over each closed eye a soothing slice of cucumber, a cooled used teabag, or a clean cloth dampened with a mild chamomile solution. This will help to reduce swelling as well as being pleasantly cooling and refreshing.
Wearing sunglasses can provide relief when your eyes are itchy and dry. Blocking out the sun’s rays reduces further irritation from the glare, but sunglasses also help to stop the wind from drying your eyes out even more.
Simple Eye Drops
Ask your doctor before taking medicated eye drops, as these can make the situation worse. However, using cool, filtered water can provide immediate soothing relief, while a weak chamomile tea is a time-honored remedy for itchy and sensitive eyes.
Both room heating in winter and air conditioning in summer can leave your indoor atmosphere arid and irritating to the eye. Deal with this by leaving a few bowls of water around your room to moisten the air through evaporation, or even consider investing in a room humidifier.
Although dry and itchy eyes are rarely a sign of anything serious, if your symptoms continue, then speak to your doctor. However, for most people, taking a little extra care of their eyes gives excellent, soothing results.