Why are my eyes so red?

Why are my eyes so red? This is a question we hear much of the day at the eye doctors office.  Many of us have the luxury of office jobs that are temperature controlled spaces with the unfortunate deleterious side effects of shoulder pain from poor posture, and that  dry eye from computer work.  One of the most common issues we address in an eye doctors office is the issue of eye irritation. We just do not blink much while staring at those screens. Humans are supposed to spend much of their time outdoors, and yet most of us spend our time inside. The rate of blinking is about 4 times per second while staring on the screen, and 15 times per second while outside. So about those scratchy, tearing, red eyes that are just so tired by the end of the day? Put down the Visine, stop covering up a symptom. Yes, that’s dry eye. Let’s care for those eyes.

My eyes tear up all the time.

Dry eye? Not me, my eyes are tearing all the time. Well it may feel like those eyes are watering all the time but really they are dry and irritated much of the time and watering is your eyes trying to fix the problem. They tear up to help clear away irritation. If you have lots of tearing they are emergency tears which have high salinity and do nothing to lubricate your eyes long-term. They help for a minute to wash out the offending irritant, but after that the surface dries again, and so the cycle continues.

What can I do about it?

How do we fix this? Consider there are three layers in healthy tear film. The three layers coat your eye in a soothing balance and help to keep vision clear.  There is a mucous layer closest to the eye surface to help smooth out the moisture layer, then the watery tear layer in the middle, and on top is the oil layer which prevents evaporation. Remove any of those layers and you will have blurry vision fluctuating from blink to blink, a scratchy feeling like something is under the eyelids, mucous discharge or tearing. Also those eyes will likely be pretty red. Let’s try to rebalance your tear film.

First stay hydrated.  Then we work on how to help maintain a good oil layer, the key to having better tear film endurance for that screen time. Take a nice hot, wet, clean washcloth and hold it over your closed eyes. Allow the temperature to cool off and then repeat. This feels really nice. Pamper those hard working eyes of yours. Next, gently wipe the lash line. This warmth and gentle massage will help to open the oil glands along the lash line. These babies are the key to helping prevent dry eye while you work on the computer or tablet. Try to do this first thing in the morning and again at bedtime.

Another way to help the oil glands for dry eye prevention is to try increasing omega 3 fatty acids in your diet with fish oil, flax seed oil, and more fresh vegetables, nuts and seeds.  Omega 3 fatty acids are very helpful in reducing inflammation and promoting healthy oil gland function. By taking care to add this in your diet or add in supplement form, you will give your body to building blocks for health skin, oil glands, and healthy eyes.

Believe it or not there are blinking exercises you can perform throughout the day to help the oil glands pump out those oils into your tear film to coat your eyes as you blink. By holding your eyes closed gently (with a little pressure) for a 3 second count and then repeating two more times, you can help to stimulate the oil glands. This will help to reduce dry eye and irritation. Try this exercise every few hours while working on the computer to see if you can improve the comfort of your eyes. I couldn’t believe what a difference it made after I tried the exercises a few day in a row.

If dry eye plagues you, try these steps and see if you are aware of any improvement in your comfort levels. If not, then you should make an appointment with your eye doctor. Those eyes are your key to independence, money, and mobility, take good care of them. Click here to make an appointment today.

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