Do you experience itchy eyes and a burning sensation as though there is something in the eye? You could have dry eye syndrome…

‘Dry eyes’ is usually a chronic eye condition which occurs when the body produces insufficient tears or moisture to keep the eyes nourished. Tears supply the eyes with oxygen and are essential to cleanse the eyes and reduce the risk of eye infections.

According to Meriek van den Berg, an optometrist at Mellins i-Style (www.mellins.co.za), dry eye syndrome is often a consequence of spending hours in front of computers and digital screens.

The symptoms

The symptoms include:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Burning sensation in the eyes
  • Feeling as though there is something in the eye
  • Watery eyes
  • Blurred vision

What causes dry eyes?

Besides the prolonged use of a computer, the following can cause dry eye syndrome:

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  • Wearing contact lenses for longer periods than prescribed by your optometrist.
  • Failing to blink regularly (for instance when staring at computer or digital screens for too long)
  • Toxins in the air
  • Airborne allergens
  • Dry weather conditions
  • Wind
  • Dust
  • Certain prescription medication
  • Hormonal changes in women as a result of pregnancy, menopause or the use of oral contraceptives, can lead to a lack of tear fluid being produced.
  • Age – it is reported that most people over the age of 65 experience some degree of dry eyes as part of the natural ageing process.
  • Health complications such as diabetes and thyroid problems.
  • Other eye conditions such as certain infections on the surface of the eyes.

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How to prevent and treat dry eyes:

Since it is National Eye Care Awareness Month, Van den Berg is sharing her top tips on how to reduce dry eye syndrome:   

  1. See your optometrist – Your optometrist will confirm whether you have a dry eye condition and there isn’t another problem with your eyes.
  1. Blink more or use eye drops – When you’re working at a computer or on a tablet, you are less likely to blink. Blinking keeps your eyes moist and reduces dryness and irritation. If your eyes become dry and blinking more doesn’t offer relief, especially when wearing contact lenses, use eye drops recommended by your optometrist or general practitioner. 
  1. Remember the 20/20/20 rule – Take a 20-second break from your digital screen every 20 minutes to relax your eyes, by focusing on an object 20 metres away.
  1. Reduce the brightness options on your digital screens.
  1. When outdoors, select UV-protective sunglasses with wraparound lenses and frames to avoid exposing eyes to wind and dust particles.
  1. Include Omega-3 in your diet by eating foods rich in essential fatty acids such as fish, avocado and flaxseeds. This nutrient helps reduce the severity of dry eyes, maintain the nervous system and plays an important role in reducing the problem.

According to Van den Berg, untreated eye problems can also cause dry eyes and it is recommended to undergo an eye examination if the condition continues or worsens.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.