Dry eye is a condition that affects your tears. Either you don’t have sufficient tears for lubricating the eyes, or the quality of tears are not very good and are unable to nourish your eyes. Tears are necessary for maintaining a healthy front surface of the eye and also for providing clear vision. Dry eye is a common problem today, especially with such a drastic rise in computer or screen usage. Chronic dry eyes are more common in older adults, but it can affect a person at any age. When you blink your eyelids, it helps the tears spread across the front surface of your eye, which is known as the cornea. So tears provide lubrication and also reduce the risk of eye infection as they wash away any foreign particles from the surface of your eyes. Many people, without even knowing, are themselves aggravating the problem of dry eyes. Read on to find out about specific activities that are worsening your dry eyes.
Tobacco smoke is known to irritate the eyes. It also breaks down the protective and oily layer of tears. This is why tobacco smoke worsens the condition of dry eyes and is a known eye irritant. This holds true even for people exposed to second-hand smoke. As a result of this, smokers are two times as likely as non-smokers to get dry eye. If you are a smoker or if you are around second-hand smoke, then it is strongly recommended that you try to quit smoking as not only is this an unhealthy habit, but it is actually causing harm to your eyes and your overall body. It also has an impact on your life span. Avoid being around second-hand smoke also as much as you possibly can. Smoking also significantly increases your risk of developing a cataract, which is a leading cause of blindness in the world. In fact, studies have shown that people who smoke regularly are twice as likely to develop cataracts, and the risk only increases the more you smoke.(1)
Frequent Use of a Blow Dryer
Using a blow dryer for drying your hair is known to only aggravate your dry eye. The dry and warm air that a blow dryer emits causes the moisture to evaporate from your eyes, which worsens your dry eye symptoms. If you are on the move and you need to dry and set your wet hair, it is recommended that you decrease the amount of time you spend using the dryer and also keep the heat settings to the minimum. It is even better just to dry the roots of the hair and let the rest of the hair air dry.
Temperature extremes, from hot to cold, is going to have a considerable effect on your eyes. For example, very hot temperatures, especially without any humidity in the air, is going to cause the moisture to evaporate from the surface of your eyes. A study carried out by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and published in the Investigative Ophthalmology, and Visual Science journal found that extremely cold temperatures can dry out the eyes.(2) Very cold temperatures thicken the meibum, which is the outer oily later of tears. Due to this, the protective tears are not able to spread across the eye with ease. It is recommended that you keep your environment as temperate as possible that can help lower the incidence of dry eyes. You can also opt for using a humidifier, which helps increase moisture in the air and also decreases the impact of a very dry atmosphere on your eyes.
Being in the path of a strong gust of wind will dry out your eyes. While sometimes it is simply not possible to avoid being in the way of strong winds, but it is in your best interest to try and avoid any environment where the air is going to blow directly into your face. This holds true for wind from either a strong fan or air conditioner. If you are going to be somewhere that has strong winds, it is recommended that you wear wraparound sunglasses. The all-around protection of a wraparound sunglass will prevent the wind from affecting your eyes and causing them to dry out. It is essential to protect yourself from the wind blowing on your face because a strong gust of wind can cause your tears to evaporate rapidly. This happens because the cornea is very susceptible, and the tears start evaporating more quickly than usual. This is why the exposed surface of the eye becomes dry.(3) Also, avoid driving your car with the windows down or riding a bike outdoors.
Using a Computer
Using a computer or any type of screen device is going to worsen your dry eyes for many reasons. A person tends to naturally blink less while looking at a screen. In fact, according to research from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, it is estimated that a person blinks up to 66 percent less than they usually do when they are not starting at a screen.(4) Without regular blinking, your eyes will start becoming drier than they already are and the glare of the computer or smartphone screen is also going to have an impact on your vision. This will cause you to squint more for reading the screen. As a result of this, you will feel your eyes getting more dry and tired. If you are using a computer for school or for work, it is crucial that you take the necessary steps for minimizing dry eyes that happen due to computer/screen use. Some of these include:
- Make an effort to blink regularly and more frequently when you are looking at your computer or at the screen of any device.
- Look away from the computer screen after about 15 to 20 minutes of working. Looking at a point far away will help you relax your eyes.
- Keep eye drops or natural tears handy at your work desk or any other easily accessible location. Apply these frequently during the day, especially if you are sitting directly in the path of an air conditioner or fan.
- Take breaks from the computer whenever possible in order to reduce the effect computer usage has on your eyes. This does not mean that you have to leave your desk, just open and close your eyes repeatedly for five to ten minutes for alleviating dry eyes.
The symptoms of dry eyes can be worsened from many different activities and environmental factors, some of which you can easily identify and also removed from your day to day routine. However, if, even after eliminating these factors, you are still suffering from chronic dry eye, then you should seek effective treatment from an eye doctor or an ophthalmologist.
- Allaboutvision.com. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.allaboutvision.com/smoking/ [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019].
- Butovich, I., Arciniega, J. and Wojtowicz, J. (2019). Meibomian Lipid Films and the Impact of Temperature.
- Pasley, J. (2019). Preventing Dry Eyes on Windy Days | Eye Care. [online] My Southern Health. Available at: http://www.mysouthernhealth.com/eye-care-tips-windy-spring-days/ [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019].
- Clinics, U. (2019). Computer vision syndrome. [online] University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. Available at: https://uihc.org/health-topics/computer-vision-syndrome [Accessed 23 Aug. 2019].
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