Relief for dehydrated eyes
Viewing the world through gritty, scratchy eyes which feel like they have been desiccated by the Sahara causing red globes and erratic blinking, is an ailment that unfortunately affects many.
Dry eyes is usually associated with aging or hormonal changes and, although sufferers generally become resigned to the condition as something to be tolerated, Mangawhai optometrist Mike Stevens, who has enthusiastically researched the subject, says that relief is definitely achievable.
“There is no need to suffer and walk around with red, irritable eyes,” he says. “Dry eye is generally something that cannot be cured but it can be managed with a combination of simple in-office treatments and home management.”
Irritating eye dryness is caused by an imbalance of the tear film. Made up from three different fluid types – mucous, aqueous and oily – the film becomes uneven and less durable as people age. Stevens says it is generally the Meibomian glands, found in the eyelids and excrete oils onto the outer layer of the eye, which becomes ‘dodgy’ and less efficient with age.
“These glands often get blocked up which leads to ongoing irritation and red, tired eyes,” he says. “There are many contributing factors to this dysfunction including an Omega 3 deficiency.”
Dry eyes can be further exacerbated by a microscopic creature the Demodex mite, which tends to live in hair follicles and oil secreting glands like human eyelashes. Stevens says the mite is very common with one American study finding the creature present in 100 percent of tested adults.
“Signs are flaky ‘dandruff’ in the eye lashes and symptoms often include an itchy, gritty, dry eye feeling,” he says. “Since we rarely wash our eye lashes and lids, our eye lashes and Meibomian glands can become over-run with them, leading to an even more stubborn dry eye condition.”
For healthy, lubricated eyes, a balance of essential fatty acids, Omega 3 and 6, is required. However Stevens says the western diet tends to contain an estimated 20 times more Omega 6 foods than Omega 3’s.
“It is recommended that 3000-4000mg of fish or flaxseed oil is taken per day,” he says. “It often takes more a than a month to get Omega 3 levels high enough in our system before any effects are noticed, so you need to be patient to see the effects.”
Other treatments that help to maintain fresh, moist eyes include using eye drops regularly – ‘ideally six times a day with meal and break times’ – along with daily eye massages. Stevens says applying a hot compress, using either a facecloth or cotton pads, to closed eyelids along the eyelash line and gently massaging this area, will help release oils from the Meibomian glands.
“Ideally you need to do this routinely morning and night,” he says. “If you are not sure if it works, try it on one eye for a week and I bet that eye will feel better than the other.”
1; Demodex mite: Could this creature be setting up house in your eye lashes?
2; ‘Dandruff’ is a not-so-pretty sign that a tiny mite is the cause of dry eyes.