In the age of instant gratification and temporary quick fixes, there remains a holistic time tested remedy for red eyes. Most burning eye discomfort and concurrent hyperemia, or redness, comes primarily from dryness. Antibiotic drops are often used inappropriately and steroid drops have little long-term benefit. The magic bullet anti-inflammatory drops advertised on TV have their role, but they often take months to work and can cost $500 per month. Oral antibiotics are used for some dry eye or lid bump conditions but have frequent side effects. Eye drops like Visine or Clear Eyes constrict the blood vessels and then cause a rebound effect. Using them more than four times per week can make those vessels weak and cause greater problems. Preservatives in some eye drops cause redness themselves.
Behold, with the proper diagnosis, diligent lid hygiene, and environmental control can offer effective natural relief methods. Specially treated soap gauze pads available over the counter, combined with a warm compress can effectively overcome clogged glands of the eyelid – our most common culprit. Baby shampoo is almost as good as some of the lid cleansers. The best treatment medical science has to offer has been available all along. Why not try the simple things first?
Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is one of the most common causes of those unhappy eyes. Most cases can be managed with the method in the previous paragraph. More severe cases can be helped with a sterile mask filled with glass beads and heated in a microwave. An example of this is a Bruder mask.
Punctal occlusion is an option for those who suffer from lack of tears or evaporative dry eye conditions. This is analogous to plugging the drain in a sink to keep the water in. An eye doctor sometimes uses temporary collagen plugs in the eyelid’s natural drainage system to insure it is effective before using long term occlusion.
The high country has unique challenges with lack of oxygen and low humidity. Controlling the underlying cause by protecting the eyes from sun and wind goes a long way towards bright, white comfortable eyes. Goggles, wrap sunglasses, and a good hat are our best allies in this battle. Humidifiers, smoke avoidance, and ceiling fan control can often be overlooked as solutions for dry eyes. Maybe the most powerful prevention can be washing hands often. People inadvertently touch toxins and irritants that spread to the eyes when rubbing. Eye allergies and subsequent dryness are very common. Over the counter anti-itch drops are safe and effective to combat this temporary problem.
Body chemistry is often overlooked as a cause of chronic red eye syndrome. Intake of omega-3 fatty acids in the proper ratio mix can be improved with natural diet or fish oil supplements. Fruits and vegetables are better for the eyes than alcohol or junk food. Smoking or even second hand smoke should be avoided if one wishes to have clear healthy eyes.
Try the simple things first and go up from there. Expert counsel for most unique or stubborn conditions is advisable. A good optometrist or ophthalmologist is the best source for specific diagnoses using special dyes or other instruments. A treatment plan specific to individual needs is paramount toward an effective therapy. Why not meet the world with clear bright eyes that feel great!
About Steve Belanger O.D.:
Dr. Belanger performs general eye care including contact lens evaluation of specialty lenses , ocular disease treatment, pediatric, and low vision testing. Currently, he is a member of the American and Colorado Optometric Association. He enjoys skiing, golf, cycling, and traveling to third world countries for eyeglass missions.