Sore, dry eyes can be due to a number of reasons, including staring at a screen for hours at a time. A Japanese study of 672 office workers who used computers showed that more than 76 per cent of women and 60 per cent of men suffered from dry eyes.
Various medications can cause dry eyes, such as antihistamines, decongestants and diuretics, so speak to your pharmacist about other options. Air conditioning, air pollution, contact lenses, smoking and menopause are other common causes. An autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s syndrome can dry up the mucous membranes of the salivary glands, causing a dry mouth and tear ducts, resulting in dry eyes. Rosacea is an inflammatory disorder that commonly presents as a butterfly-shape rash over the cheeks but ocular rosacea can affect the inner eyelids, making them feel gritty, dry and itchy. Other causes are conjunctivitis, an infection of the inner surface of the eyelids, and blepharitis, an inflammation of the lash follicles.
Natural solutions and supplements
Whatever the cause of your dry and sore eyes, the following suggestions may help. Ensure that you’re drinking sufficient fluids, which equates to at least two litres daily. Omega-3 fatty acids, especially fish oil, can be helpful in treating dry eyes, so try taking 3g daily for at least a month. Vitamin A is good for the surface and mucous membrane linings of the eye. Take no more than 5000iu daily and eat plenty of betacarotene-rich foods such as apricots, red capsicum, sweet potato and kale. If infection is causing your dry eyes, take vitamin C, zinc, echinacea and the herb eyebright for your immune system and use the following eyewash.
A tea and eyewash in one
Make up two cups of a combination of calendula petals and chamomile flowers – calendula for its antibacterial powers, and chamomile for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties. Drink one cup and relax while you wait for the other cup to cool down. When the second cup is still warm, use it as an eyewash by dipping a cotton swab or gauze pad into the tea and swabbing each eye from the inner to outer corner. Apply twice daily to both eyes as these conditions can be easily spread.
This tea can also be used as a compress while palming (see below). For this, saturate a clean flannel or large piece of gauze with the warm tea, squeeze out the excess moisture and apply it over the eyes.
Eye tip: Reduce eye strain in two minutes
Palming is a technique that was purportedly introduced by early-20th century physician William Horatio Bates, to help reduce eye strain and improve eyesight.
To do it, sit comfortably with both elbows on a table in front of you, forearms bent and the palm of each hand cupping over your closed eyes. Ensure that any light is excluded and imagine that you’re looking at black velvet cloth. Stay in this position for a few minutes or until you feel a relaxation of the muscles around the eyes.
Palming is a useful treatment and prevention for eye strain if you look at a screen for much of the day.