Are you experiencing foreign body sensation (feeling like there is sand or grit in the eye), pain, burning, redness, tearing, discomfort, dryness, fatigue and intermittent blurriness? Does this worsen in the winter, under dry conditions, or when it is windy?
You may have dry eyes.
Dry eyes are extremely common - affecting 1 in 4 Canadians, and is much more prevalent in winter.
Do I have dry eyes?
See your ophthalmologist for a full eye examination to first ensure you have the correct diagnosis, as many eye conditions can give similar symptoms.
How can I manage dry eyes?
Use of humidifiers at home especially in winter months will help.
Divert vent/heat flow
Point heat and ventilation system outflow away from your eyes both at home and when in the car.
There are many types of artificial tears available. Try and see which one feels most comfortable for your eye. If you need to use artificial tears more than 4-5 times a day, consider using preservative-free artificial tears.
Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation
There are many brands available and typically comes in pills or liquid form. Fish sources are in general superior to flaxseed, but for those who do not like fish oil or is allergic, flaxseed source is a good option. It can take up to 3 months of daily use before full effect is felt. Note, when you initially start to take high dose omega-3 there may be some bloating and gas, so it may be a good idea to start with a graduated increase to full dose to allow your body to adapt. Taking omega-3 with food will help to minimize fishy taste as well.
Increase blink frequency
Did you know that we blink half as frequently when we are focusing on something (such as computer monitor, TV or book)? So take breaks at least every 30min when reading, using the computer and watching TV.
Many people with dry eyes also have blepharitis (a condition of the eyelid oil glands), who will benefit from use of (1) warm compresses daily for at least 5 minutes per session, (2) followed by lid hygiene/scrub using specialized eyelid cleanser or baby shampoo to remove the excess oil and debris.
In severe cases, your ophthalmologist may prescribe prescription medication to manage dry eye or provide other additional options.