Natural Remedies for Dry Eyes

Published June 1, 2020

Wondering what you can do to relieve dry eyes … naturally?

It is always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for any concerns regarding your vision or ocular health. However, you may be wondering what you can do to relieve your dry eye symptoms in the meantime. 

We have compiled a list of effective natural dry eye remedies for you to try— you may find that they are so effective in treating your dry eyes, that medication is no longer necessary!

What is dry eye syndrome (DES)?

Dry eyes, is a common condition that results from insufficient tear quantity, or inadequate tear quality. Dry eyes can range from a mild inconvenience to a chronic problem called dry eye syndrome. Dry eyes cause many uncomfortable symptoms that can impact your performance at work and during recreational activities.

Up to 50% of all adults suffer from dry eyes 

The most common cause of dry eyes is meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) which lowers the oil content of the tears. Other causes of dry eye syndrome include blepharitis, an eyelid infection, and reactions to medications such as antihistamines, which are used to control allergies.

Dry eyes can also be caused by contact lenses, pink eye, dry weather, exhaustion, prolonged digital device usage, or a nutritional deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids.

Symptoms of dry eyes

  • Dry, irritated, or red eyes
  • Inflammation or burning
  • Itchiness
  • Excessive tearing/watery eyes
  • Blurriness
  • Sensitive or sore eyes
  • Eyelid discomfort
  • Foreign body sensation

Factors that can increase your risk of dry eyes

  • Poor tear quality or quantity
  • Gender— women at a higher risk from hormonal changes (pregnancy, oral contraceptives, menopause)
  • Age— over 50
  • Environmental factors and irritants—smoke, wind and dry climates
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid problems
  • Medications such as decongestants, antihistamines, antidepressants,and blood pressure medications
  • Lifestyle Factors—infrequent blinking with prolonged screen
  • Contact lenses— long term use
  • Meibomian gland disorder (insufficient production/secretion of oil)
  • Blepharitis (clogged oil glands in eyelid)
  • Refractive eye surgeries such as LASIK

Relieving dry eyes naturally

There are many different natural remedies that can help to relieve the uncomfortable dry eye symptoms that you may be experiencing.

The following are the most common and effective natural remedies:

1. Protect your eyes. Avoid dry or windy environments— or at least protect your eyes with appropriate eyewear, such as wraparound sunglasses, whenever you venture outdoors. Also, purchase a humidifier to add moisture to the air in your home or office.

2. Consume a healthy diet including Omega 3. Omega-3 fatty acids, most commonly found in fish and flax seeds, have been proven to decrease symptoms of dry eyes. Omega-3 reduces inflammation in the eyes and enables increased tear quantity as well as quality!

You can increase your Omega-3 intake through supplements, or by eating foods that contain high levels of the fatty acid.

Foods that contain Omega-3 include:

  • Flaxseed
  • Palm oil
  • Soybean oil
  • Chia seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Fish oil supplements

3. Boost your vitamin A, B12, and D levels. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to cause symptoms of dry eyes. Vitamins A and B12 are also essential for your ocular health. These vitamins are found in many different foods— try to eat a healthy balanced diet that contains a variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. Vitamin supplements are also an effective way to boost your vitamin levels.

Other vitamins that are essential for your ocular health include:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamins B6 and B9
  • Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin
  • Thiamine

4. Control blood sugar levels. This is especially important if you have diabetes. Diabetes can cause ocular nerve damage due to restricted blood circulation throughout the body. The nerve damage can affect the lacrimal glands and lead to poor tear production— and consequently, dry eyes. Controlling blood sugar levels by carefully following your doctor’s instructions and eating a healthy, balanced diet, can reduce your risk of developing nerve damage over time and improve dry eye symptoms.

5. Lubricating eye drops/ Artificial tears. Many patients will feel relief from their symptoms with regular use of artificial tears lubricating eye drops, along with some lifestyle changes.

In most cases, lubricating eye drops will provide sufficient relief of symptoms that occur as a result of exhaustion or living in a dry climate. These drops supplement your natural tears with artificial tears, to provide increased moisture and protection.

Artificial tears are available for purchase without a prescription. However, there are many different brands to choose from— ask your eye doctor for a recommendation based on your individual needs.

If your eyes are severely dry, lubricating ointment or gel may be more effective in providing moisture and relief for longer. However, it is recommended to only use ointments or gels before bedtime because they may cause blurry vision for a short time after application.

6. Stay hydrated. Drink enough water throughout the day (at least 8 cups) to ensure that your eyes produce enough tears to combat dry eyes.  This is especially important if you live in a hot or dry climate.

7. Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol can cause dehydration and affect the quality of your tears. A study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) showed that drinking alcohol can cause dry eye syndrome. Try to limit your alcohol intake, or say no to it completely.

8. Quit smoking. Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals that can irritate your eyes and affect the quality of your tears. Smoke can significantly increase your risk of dry eyes.

9. Reduce anti-inflammatory responses.Some people suffer from certain food intolerances, such as gluten, nuts, dairy, etc. When consumed, these foods can cause an inflammatory reaction in the body. This reaction can also affect the eyes, so if you suffer from a food intolerance, avoid your triggers for four weeks and see if your dry eye symptoms improve.

10. Take frequent breaks. It is important to take frequent breaks when reading, watching TV, or using the computer. Many people forget to blink when involved in these activities— this can cause dry eyes as the tears will evaporate more quickly with less frequent blinking. A good rule to follow is the 20-20-20 rule which involves taking breaks every 20 minutes to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

11. Warm compresses. Relax with a warm compress to cleanse your eyelids and improve oil flow through your eyelid glands. This will help to improve the quality of your tears and alleviate dry eyes.

12. Rinse your eyelids. Gently massage your eyelids with warm water and baby shampoo to further improve oil flow through your eyelid glands and the quality of your tears. A preservative-free eyelid cleanser may also be used. Remember to clean both your upper and lower eyelids, as well as your eyelashes, to remove any makeup or creams that may irritate your eyes.

If you are experiencing symptoms of dry eye, natural remedies can alleviate many dry eye symptoms.

Important note: If symptoms persist and are causing pain or discomfort, make an appointment with your eye doctor for an eye exam.

Inform your doctor of any medications and lifestyle habits that may be causing your dry eye symptoms. Your eye doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your dry eye relief.