Several years ago, I began to struggle with dry eyes. This was at a time when I lived in a very dry climate, and I wore contact lenses most of the time. My eyes would get dry towards the end of my workday, and I couldn’t wait to take them off when I finally got home.
Most days a couldn't stand to wear eye makeup. I knew there must be a better way to live. I couldn't go on with the feeling of wanting to claw the contact lenses from my eyes before 5 pm.
I began to research how to keep moisture in my eyes longer. I played around and tried every contact lens and contact lens cleaning solution on the market. I definitely have my favorites from that experiment, but there was still something missing.
Since then, I’ve read articles, attended lectures, and even written a book on the subject. Finally, in 2017, a pivotal research paper was released called TFOS DEWS II (Tear Film and Ocular Surface Society Dry Eye Workshop 2).
This paper is now considered to be the standard in dry eye care. And, it outlines a step by step treatment approach to dry eye disease, which has been authenticated and applauded by clinicians and researchers around the globe.
With this research as the backbone, an at-home treatment plan is readily available to dry eye sufferers anywhere. Utilizing the research I’ve adopted a four-step process to alleviate dry eye symptoms in my own patients.
The 4 Steps to Help Alleviate your Dry Eye Symptoms
Hydrate, Harmonize, Heat and Heal
Hydrate. Our bodies are about 60% water. We all understand the importance of staying hydrated in order for our bodies to perform properly. Our eyes need the same commitment to treatment.
Drinking water will help your dry, scratchy eyes, but you will need a topical remedy as well. Supplement the watery layer of your tears by using a preservative-free artificial tear several times a day.
There are bacteria which live naturally on most of our body. These bacteria are supposed to be there and help keep our bodies functioning normally. In fact, without these bacteria in and around our bodies, we would become ill.
Thus, it is important to keep the balance of the good bacterial colonies and eliminate the overgrowth. As we cleanse this delicate area of our eyes, we must pay close attention to creating stability here without stripping away the oils. It is best to perform this every day just like brushing our teeth or taking a shower.
Relieve those tired eyes with moist heat, just as you would want to alleviate the strain of a tight or tired muscle. It feels soothing to your lids to heat up the oil glands that line the edges of your lid margins.
The warmth softens the oil trapped in the lids and allows it to flow again. As the oil seeps out of the lid margins, your eyes become cushioned by your now robust tear layer, the way nature intended them to be.
It is best to utilize a commercially available warm compress versus a wet wash clothe or simply allowing warm water to run over your face while in the shower. A microwavable or electric mask made specifically for this purpose will hold this higher heat temperature for 8 – 12 minutes.
These days we all have plenty of stress in our lives. Research has shown us again and again that stress increases inflammation in our bodies. The same holds true for our eyes.
The inflammation on our eyes is not as easy to see. When it worsens, our eyes may become red and the tissues around the eyes puffy. However, our eyes may be uncomfortable well before they look red.
Using anti-inflammatory treatments will reduce the pain and discomfort you are feeling, all too often in your eyes. Consider consuming more Omega 3 Fatty Acids in your diet. The best way to get these essential vitamins and nutrients is through supplementation.
If you have been suffering from symptoms related to dry or sensitive eyes, you are not alone. It is estimated that over 30 million Americans are also experiencing similar symptoms. However, you do not need to continue to suffer. Research has been ongoing for years in this field.
And, with the release of the TFOS DEWS II report, we have a step by step plan to follow. The first stage of treatment can all be managed with over the counter treatments. And, even when you are undergoing more advanced treatments for dry eye disease in the doctor's office, most dry eye specialists will have you continue to follow the basic steps at home.
The foundation of a good dry eye treatment includes a 4-step process that patients follow at home. These steps are hydrate, harmonize, heat, and heal. A starting point for any patient would be to start these steps twice a day.
This is just the starting point for dry eye patients. If you continue to suffer from the symptoms of dry eyes, please see an eye care professional for further care.