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Maintaining healthy eyes will bring you more than sharper vision. Eye health is vital to having the best quality of life possible. Here are some common eye health issues and how to treat them.

What causes dry, irritable eyes1?
Dry eye occurs when the eye does not produce enough tears or produces tears that do not have the proper chemical composition causing an irregularity of the tear film.

Some common causes of dry eye include:

  • Environmental factors, such as dry air from heating or air conditioning
  • Reduced blinking and eye strain from close-up work, such as on a computer
  • Prescription drugs, especially antihistamines, diuretics and anti-anxiety pills2

With contact lens use, there has to be a continuous fresh layer of tears evenly spread across the ocular surface creating a “comfortable cushion” between the contact lens and eye surface. Discomfort, especially dryness, remains the most common complaint from contact lens wearers, with 2.2 million contact lens wearers giving them up each year.

Do I have an eye allergy3

Hay fever, otherwise known as allergic rhinitis, can make performing at work or school a challenge, and can interfere with other activities you enjoy. The allergy produces cold-like symptoms including a runny nose, congestion, sneezing, sinus pressure, and perhaps most distracting of all, watery and itchy eyes.

Hay fever is caused by your body’s response to outdoor or indoor allergens like grass, dust mites, pet dander, or pollen. Hay fever can surface at any age, and you may experience worsened symptoms during certain times of year depending on your trigger.

If your symptoms are ongoing (more than 3-7 days or as long as you’re exposed to allergens), you think you may have hay fever, and allergy medications either aren’t working or have problematic side effects, see your doctor.

The first step to managing eye allergies is minimizing exposure. When the pollen count is high (generally mid-morning and early evening), try to stay indoors or wear eye/sunglasses to protect your eyes from allergens. When driving, keep your windows up to avoid triggers entering the car and your eyes. Clean your floors with a mop as opposed to a broom to get rid of dust instead of stirring it up. If your pet is causing your allergies, keep it out of your bedroom at least, and outside of the house as much as possible. Lastly, try a cool compress on your eyes to soothe irritation instead of rubbing, which will only make things worse.

Do I have a scratch on my eye4

If it feels like you have sand in your eye—tears, blurry vision, sensitivity and redness, headache—these may be symptoms of a corneal abrasion. The cornea is the protective window at the front of your eye, and can be scratched when coming in contact with anything from dirt and dust to sand and metal particles.

Seek prompt medical attention in the event of a corneal abrasion. Immediate steps for corneal abrasion care includes rinsing your eye with clean water or saline solution (use a cup with its rim resting on the bone at the bottom of your eye socket), blinking several times, or pulling the upper eyelid over the lower eyelid (causing the lower lashes to hopefully brush away any foreign object from underneath your upper eyelid).

Do not rub your eye or touch your eyeball, as this can aggravate the abrasion. Corneal abrasions, without complications, will generally heal within 24 to 48 hours.

How do I reduce eyestrain5

If your eyes are sore, tired, burning/itching, watery, dry or blurred, you may be experiencing eyestrain. Along with eyestrain comes headache, a sore neck or back, shoulder pain, increased sensitivity to light and difficulty focusing.

Eyestrain is common, especially with so many professionals using computers or other digital electronic devices for extended periods of time. Other common causes include reading or driving for extended periods of time, exposure to bright light or glare, or straining to see in very dim light.

Eyestrain does not come with serious or long-term consequences, however, see a doctor if you have a noticeable change in vision, such as double vision.

To give your eyes a rest consider the way that you are working and your lifestyle. If you work in front of a computer, your monitor should be positioned directly in front of you and about 20 to 40 inches from your eyes. Check your lighting. Eliminate any bright lighting or glare that may be causing you to strain in order to see what is on your screen. Keeping your monitor clean can also increase visibility and decrease eyestrain. Also, if you need to continuously go back and forth between looking at a document and you screen, use a document holder placed next to your screen so that you don’t have to readjust your eyes or turn your neck and head.

You may also want to try the following:

  • Make sure your eyewear is right for you.
  • Massage your eyelids, brow, temple and upper cheek daily.
  • Improve the air quality of your work space.
  • Use artificial teardrops.
  • Take breaks (at least from looking at your computer screen) every 20 minutes or so, and make an effort to blink more often.  

1 Accessed March 28, 2013.
2 Accessed April 2, 2014.
3 Accessed March 28, 2014.
4 Accessed March 28, 2013.
5 Accessed March 28, 2013.

Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.
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