How to relieve dry eyes

Due to the COVID-19 coronavirus, I still wear a surgical mask every minute while at work, putting it on as I step out of my car into our clinic parking lot, and wearing it until opening my car door again to head home.

At my clinic we are expected to keep our masks on unless we are eating, drinking, or are alone in our office. After hours of exhaling into my mask, my eyes feel tired and gritty, like they have bits of sand in them.
Exposure to windy, dusty, or smoky conditions can trigger dry eye symptoms. Another common cause of dry eyes is taking medicines that interfere with making saliva and tear fluids, especially bladder control medicines, antidepressants, and heart medicines.
Tears help keep your eyes healthy by keeping the surface of your eye moist, lubricating the inside of your eyelids, and helping wash dust and foreign objects away. We make about 1ml (one-quarter teaspoonful) of tears every day. While most tear fluid evaporates directly from your eye, excess moisture can drain out through tiny holes in the inner corners of your eye called punctums.
Some diseases like Sjogren's syndrome cause dry mouth as well as dry eyes. Parkinson's disease can cause you to blink less frequently, reducing the lubricating effect of your tears. Bell's palsy is a temporary paralysis of the face, often affecting eye muscles, and can prevent an eye from closing all the way, allowing more tear fluid to evaporate.
Some strategies that can help relieve dry eyes include keeping yourself hydrated, increasing your environment's humidity, eliminating medications that are causing discomfort, taking Omega-3 fatty acids, and using eye lubricant drops and ointments.
If you are on a medication that you suspect may be causing your eyes to be dry, contact your doctor and ask if you can either have a trial off of it or switch to another medicine. Avoid dry, dusty conditions, and consider using a humidifier.
People who wear protective face masks may notice that their glasses fog up when they breathe out. To keep that to a minimum, when wearing a surgical mask, put it on so that the metal strip is across the top edge. Pinch that strip in so that the metal edge hugs your nose and upper cheeks. This helps direct your exhaling breaths out through the sides of your mask instead of the top, preventing your glasses from getting fogged up.
After I had LASIK surgery 20 years ago to correct my vision, they told me that I would probably need eye drops for the rest of my life. After carrying around a bottle of eye drops everywhere, I tried taking fish oil with Omega-3 fatty acids, which worked great and was far more convenient. Fish oil and flaxseed are good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids.
When choosing an eye drop for dry eye, consider how much lubrication you need. The more viscous the eye drop, the more lubricating it is, but also the more clumpy residue they will leave on your eyelashes.
Most eye drops contain a preservative to discourage infections. Those that don't are sold in single-use containers and are significantly more expensive. During the years that I wore contact lenses, I developed a sensitivity to two common preservatives used in contact lens solutions and lubricating eye drops: benzalkonium chloride and parabens. "Disappearing preservatives" are now widely available, which break apart when they contact your tear fluid.
Personally, I find using an eye ointment very soothing, but I only use them at bedtime because they make my vision blurry.
Here are 7 tips to help relieve dry eye symptoms:

1. Hydrate and humidify your surroundings.

Make sure you drink enough water and avoid dry and dusty conditions. Consider using a humidifier indoors.

2. Check your medicines.

Tell your doctor about your dry eye symptoms and ask if any of your medications could be the cause.

3. Try Omega-3 fatty acids.

Fish oil, flaxseed, and other Omega-3 supplements may relieve dry eye symptoms.

4. Use just one drop.

Adding more than one eye drop at a time only forces the extra out of your eye, wasting it.

5. Keep it clean.

Always wash your hands before using eye drops, and keep uncapped tips from touching any surfaces.

6. Choose eye drops with disappearing preservatives.

Disappearing preservatives are much less irritating than benzalkonium chloride, EDTA, or parabens.

7. Consider using eye ointment at bedtime.

Bedtime is the best time to use eye ointment to avoid having blurry vision.

Dr. Louise Achey, Doctor of Pharmacy, is a 40-year veteran of pharmacology and author of Why Dogs Can’t Eat Chocolate: How Medicines Work and How YOU Can Take Them Safely. Get clear answers to your medication questions at her website and blog ®2021 Louise Achey


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