Originally appeared in
Earth Star Magazine February/March 2008
By Rosemary Gaddum Gordon, D.B.O., M.A.
The range of discomfort from dry eyes can go from mild to extreme. The eyes can be burning and red, or gritty like they are full of sand, or they may over-water, so tears are constantly flowing down the cheeks. The causes are numerous, from lack of blinking, poor nutrition and allergies, to drug side effects, hormonal imbalance and auto-immune disease.
Tears are necessary for the health of the cornea, the front surface of the eye. They lubricate, nourish and clean it. Our tears are not just salty water, they consist of three layers. The outermost surface is a fatty layer that prevents the moisture from evaporating. It is secreted by glands on the back of the eyelids. Then there is the salty, watery layer that comes from a gland behind the outer brow. The layer next to the cornea is a mucous layer that allows it to be “wetted.” If there is a problem with any of these components we get dry eyes.
If you have dry eyes, no matter what your diagnosis – and it is advisable to get one – you might consider some of the following suggestions:
Increased Blinking: Some people don’t blink enough. The ducts that bring the watery layer to the eye need the action of the blink in order to transport the fluid. Ask someone to count how many times you blink in a minute while you read, watch TV, work on the computer or just have a conversation. If it is less than twelve times, experiment with increasing your blinks. If your eyes feel dry because you haven’t blinked for a while, try Big Fat Squeezes to generate some moisture. (If you wear contact lenses, wait until you remove them.) Close your eyes and bring your cheeks up towards your brows for two seconds then relax them and open your eyes up really wide for two seconds. Do this about five times and notice if you have more moisture in your eyes. If you don’t, repeat the five times. If this doesn’t produce more tears, check with your doctor.
Eye drops can be both soothing and therapeutic. Be sure to get the ones without preservatives and avoid the kind that promise “to get the red out”. The latter reduce the circulation to the front of the eye and over time, make the eyes drier.
Diet and supplements: These can also make a big difference. Sugar, alcohol and caffeine tend to dry the eyes. Essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil and coldwater fish oils are needed for the production of the fatty outer and the watery second layers of the tears. Vitamins A and C are vital for the health of the mucous layer. Being well hydrated is also vital. Someone who had suffered with dry, red eyes for years in spite of blinking, emailed me an interesting recipe which is working well for her. She adds ¼ teaspoon of “high quality” sea salt per quart of filtered water. She drinks six, eight ounce glasses of it warm every day, especially on rising, and she takes a tablespoon of flaxseed oil daily. She now experiences less redness and irritation with an increase of tear flow. She’s delighted.
There is much information online about dry eyes. Don’t let your eyes remain so unhappy, do something to help them feel better.