December marks the countdown to Christmas and the long winter months ahead. While the ‘fresh’ winter air may feel exhilarating, the majority of us are cooped up inside with the central heating on in an attempt to keep warm. Cosy though this may be, it can cause havoc with the quality of our tears. Our tears are made up of three main ingredients: mucin, aqueous and lipid. The mucin later is a sticky substance that holds the tears to the front of our eyes, the aqueous layer gives our tears their volume and the lipid layer acts as a barrier to the environment to prevent premature evaporation of tears. The normal human blink rate is about 15 times per minute i.e. once every 4 seconds! Human eyes have not really evolved significantly since we were cavemen; outside all of the time having plenty of fresh air, so as you might imagine, the modern indoor, central heating, car-driving, TV watching, iPad/phone playing lifestyle does in many cases, cause symptoms of dry-eye. Dry eyes can cause a large range of symptoms, from gritty/tired eyes to a prickly/burning sensation and in some cases watery eyes! If the eye can tell it has become overly dry, it produced reflex tears i.e. floods your eye with extra, watery tears in an attempt to re-wet itself, which then leads to the eyes watering, as these extra tears overwhelm the tear ducts that drain the tears through your nose. That’s why our nose runs when we cry!
Here’s a list of top do’s and don’ts to keep your tears as happy as possible:
1. Drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids – the more you drink, the more can come out in your tears. There is some evidence to suggest that omega oils in your diet can improve the quality of your tears.
2. Blink regularly! If you don’t blink enough, you don’t remove the old stale tears and wipe the fresh ones around. This is most important when concentrating i.e. driving, TV, computer, phone, reading
3. Point the car heater blowers away from your face and have a window ajar in your home/office to circulate some fresh air. Avoid sitting too close to a radiator or fire too.
4. Keep your eyelids nice and clean. Washing our faces and hands regularly and using moisturisers is the norm for a lot of us and so keeping your eyelids nice and clean should be too, ensuring that your tears can be released properly from the edges of your lids. There are special treatments for your eyelid hygiene regimen e.g. Blephasol and Blephaclean.
5. For some people, even the above points do not maintain the correct tear quality in which case ocular lubricants (dry-eye drops) may be useful e.g. Hycosan, Theoloz Duo, Hyabak.
Enjoy the festive period!