As the weather turns cold and dry, many people’s eyes start to feel like parchment paper. They burn, itch and feel like they have grit in them that just won’t come out. If you have these symptoms, you may have dry eye.
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Dry eye is a condition in which the eyes don’t produce enough tears or the right quality of tears. As a result, your eyes are not properly lubricated, resulting in discomfort. Dry eye symptoms can flare up during cold weather months especially.
William Dupps, MD, PhD, an ophthalmologist in Cleveland Clinic’s Cole Eye Institute offers the following tips for relief.
1. Try artificial tears
As the primary treatment for dry eye, artificial teardrops are available over the counter. “Your ophthalmologist can help you pick one that’s right for you,” says Dr. Dupps.
2. Add fish or flaxseed to your diet
Many people know omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy, but research shows they may act as a buffer against dry eye, too. Patients who consumed a higher ratio of good to bad fats have a lower risk of developing dry eye. Try eating more foods that contain omega-3s, such as tuna, salmon, flax or hemp seeds, and walnuts.
Air blowing in your face can significantly dry your eyes. At home, forced air can have the same effect.
3. Check your surroundings
If you leave the house feeling fine but arrive at a destination with dry, itchy eyes, adjust the position of your car’s air conditioning and heat vents. Air blowing in your face can significantly dry your eyes. At home, forced air can have the same effect. Try running a cool-mist humidifier in your bedroom and other rooms where you spend a lot of time.
4. Ask about prescriptions
For severe cases of dry eye, over-the-counter eye drops and home remedies are not enough. Ask about prescription eye drops, which help increase tear production, reduce eyelid inflammation and improve the quality of oil in your tears. Certain oral antibiotics also have similar effects on oil and inflammation. In addition, special serum drops created from a patient’s own blood products can be helpful in severe cases.
5. Ask if a procedure is an option
If nothing else helps, it may be necessary to close the ducts that drain tears from the surface of the eyes. This painless procedure involves inserting a plug into the eye’s tear drain. “This can be done with temporary, dissolving plugs or long-term silicone plugs that increase the tear lake that bathes the eyes,” Dr. Dupps says.