Dry eyes are a common symptom of many conditions.
It can be a short-term problem that comes from allergies or an infection, or it can be a symptom of a chronic condition or disease.
Either way, dry eyes can range from distracting and mildly uncomfortable to extremely painful.
Many simple home remedies can ease the discomfort of dry eyes.
In this article, I’ll cover at-home remedies for dry eyes, explain why dry eyes can happen, discuss ways to prevent them, and share when to seek medical attention.
Simple Home Remedies for Dry Eyes
Consider one or more of these simple remedies at home for relief from dry, irritated eyes.
Over-the-counter eye drops can effectively relieve dry eye symptoms quickly.
Eye drops come with a variety of active ingredients.
Some function as artificial tears, while others lubricate the eye.
Examples of OTC eye drops to treat dry eyes include:
- Systane Gel Drops
- Refresh Tears
- Refresh Relieva
- Visine Dry Eye Relief
- Refresh Optive Advanced
- TheraTears Extra Dry Eye Therapy
- Refresh Optive Mega-3
- Refresh Plus
In many cases, dry eyes occur because the eye’s oil glands struggle to keep the eyes hydrated.
Using warm compresses a few times a day can help release oil and improve your eyes’ natural function.
Simply place a warm (not hot) washcloth on your eyes for at least five minutes as needed for relief.
Rest your eyes
When you blink, it helps moisturize your eyes, but the more you stare at screens, the less you blink.
So looking at computer screens, smartphones, and TVs can lead to dry eyes.
Being over-tired can worsen or cause dry eye symptoms because lack of sleep can decrease natural tear secretion.
To rest your eyes, focus on the following:
- Blink more frequently: Most people blink 15 times per minute, but staring at screens can reduce this by more than half. If you spend a lot of time working on a computer, set a reminder every 10-30 minutes to give your eyes a one-minute break to blink frequently.
- Take more breaks from screens: Intentionally take breaks every 20 minutes to look out and away and close your eyes.
- Prioritize sleep: Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Shift priorities to ensure you are getting enough sleep to support the health of your eyes and the rest of your body.
Change your environment
Many environmental factors can cause or worsen dry eyes.
If any of the following factors are present, change what is around you or find a way to give your eyes a break:
- Hair dryers
- Cigarette smoke
- Air pollution
Why Do I Have Dry Eyes?
Dry eye disease is a common condition that occurs when your natural tears are inadequate to keep your eyes lubricated.
This results in inflammation or irritation to the surface of the eye.
Common symptoms of dry eye include:
- Excess watering of the eyes followed by periods of complete dryness
- Stinging, burning, or gritty feelings in the eyes
- Stringy or mucus-like discharge from the eyes
- Blurred or double vision
- Vision loss or temporary blind spots
- Sensitivity to light
- Fatigue and eye strain
- Problems tolerating contact lenses
Dry eye disease can be caused by many conditions, factors, or disorders, including:
- Normal aging processes
- Medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, antidepressants, retinoids, and blood pressure medications
- Hormone changes, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and hormonal contraceptives
- Seasonal allergies or other environmental allergens
- Extended periods of time viewing computer screens, televisions, smartphones, or devices
- Long-term contact lens use
- Autoimmune inflammatory disorders such as Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis
- Lasik surgery
- Nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin A or B vitamins
- Using a poorly fitting CPAP mask
- Wearing face masks for most of the day without a break
- Chronic conjunctivitis (pink eye)
- Skin conditions such as rosacea or psoriasis
- Cigarette smoking or frequent secondhand smoke exposure
- Frequent alcohol intake
- Thyroid disorders
The following may help prevent dry eyes:
Use a humidifier
Dry air can worsen dry eyes.
Using a humidifier in the house during dry months can help to ease symptoms associated with dry eye disease.
Add omega fatty acids to your diet
Anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve dry eyes.
Dietary sources of omega 3s include salmon and other fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.
You can also take dietary supplements that contain omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA.
Cigarette smoke and smoke from campfires can worsen dry eye symptoms.
Avoid areas where you will be exposed to smoke of any type as well as wind.
If you must be outdoors, wear wrap-around eye protection.
When to Seek Medical Attention for Dry Eyes
Dry eyes can be a temporary source of irritation or a chronic symptom of another disease or disorder.
If left untreated, chronic dry eyes can eventually lead to loss of vision, corneal damage, and pain.
If you notice other symptoms with dry eyes or dry eyes that are not improving, consult a medical provider for a physical exam.
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Frequently Asked Questions
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
K Health has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We avoid using tertiary references.
Dry eye. (2022).
Original article Prevalence of Diagnosed Dry Eye Disease in the United States Among Adults Aged 18 Years and Older. (2017).
The Pathophysiology, Diagnosis, and Treatment of Dry Eye Disease. (2015).
Computers, digital devices, and eye strain. (2020).
Impact of Air Pollution and Weather on Dry Eye. (2020).
A randomized controlled trial of omega-3 fatty acids in dry eye syndrome. (2013).