Are Your Eyes Parched? You're Not Alone

March 29, 2024 Providence News Team

The stinging, burning or scratchiness of dry eyes is the most common reason Americans visit an ophthalmologist.

This condition is more frequent among those over 50, and causes can range from medications (decongestants, antidepressants and blood pressure drugs are often culprits) to certain autoimmune diseases or environmental triggers, such as very dry air, allergies or staring at a screen for hours—causing your blink rate to drop from 20 to 3 times a minute. The result can be that your eyes don’t produce enough tears (called aqueous-deficient dry eye) or there is not enough oil in your tears (called evaporative dry eye) to keep your eyes lubricated.

Igor Bussel, MD, an ophthalmologist and glaucoma specialist, offers three tips to help eliminate the symptoms of dry eyes:

  • Use preservative-free artificial tears, which mimic natural tears and come in drops or gels. Opt for preservative-free varieties to avoid further drying and irritating the eyes.
  • Apply warm compresses to your eyelids for 10–15 minutes to melt any blockages in the glands responsible for oil production, improving tear quality.
  • Begin taking a high-grade fish oil. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil can reduce inflammation and improve meibomian gland function, contributing to healthier tears.

“If symptoms continue, see an ophthalmologist who can determine the underlying cause,” says Dr. Bussel, who explains that persistent parched eyes can make eye infection or inflammation more likely. “While usually easily treated, dry eyes can also be an early symptom of an autoimmune or thyroid issue, so it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis.” 

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Bussel, call 714-525-2375. To find a physician who is right for you, go to findadoctor.

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