Having dry, tired, red or sore eyes is not usually a serious condition, but it can be serious enough to be debilitating, especially when you're working or studying and have to be at your best. If the problem persists, it can make you feel tired and unable to focus. The good news is that you don't have to just endure dry, tired eyes: there are many natural ways to combat them.
Causes of Sore Eyes
There are four major causes of sore eyes:
- Medical: Often called "pink eye", conjunctivitis is a very common cause of sore, dry and tired eyes. Conjunctivitis can be caused by either a virus or a bacterial infection. If the cause is viral, the condition usually improves on its own within 2 to 3 weeks. If it is bacterial in origin, antibiotic treatment may be needed. Symptoms of conjunctivitis can be severe and aside from the common eye complaints of itchiness and redness can include burning sensations, watery eyes, a "sticky" feeling discharge and light sensitivity. If you suspect pink eye to be the cause, seek medical advice.
- Allergic: An allergic reaction is the immune system's attempt to ward off what it interprets as a threat. The most common allergic reactions occur in the eyes, which become red, sore, itchy and, usually, watery. Pet dander, dust and pollen frequently cause allergies and in most cases, the sore eyes are accompanied by nasal symptoms such as sneezing and nasal congestion.
- Environmental: Environment causes of sore eyes include air pollutants, dry air, strong sunlight and chemicals.
- Work related: The most common cause of work related sore eyes is extended periods of study or work in front of a computer. It is thought that one of the reasons this occurs is because focused attention on a computer screen causes the worker to unconsciously stop blinking or for the rate of blinking to slow down. Blinking is the body's way of cleansing and moisturising the eyes, so when blinking stops, they become dry, sore and tired.
Of all the major causes of sore eyes, those associated with dry eyes are usually work related and environmental, though there are also some medical causes that should be considered as well. Rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, Parkinson's disease and severe vitamin deficiencies are all possible causes of dry eyes. It has also been recently discovered that hormone replacement therapy can be a cause of dry eyes. If you suspect any of these may be the culprit, seek medical advice. If you believe your dry, tired eyes are a result of environmental or work related issues, natural treatments may be all you need.
Natural Treatments for Dry, Tired Eyes
If you regularly experience dry, tired eyes at work or school, the cause is probably work and/or environmentally related. While the best treatment may be to get out into the fresh air and away from the computer, this is often impossible. Commercially available eye drops are one temporary solution, but there are some natural treatments for dry, tired eyes that may be even more beneficial.
Tears are chemically complex and include a number of substances that work together to keep the eyes moisturised. These natural treatments contain soothing oils and other ingredients that many people say can "break the cycle" of dry eyes and enable them to get back to work and remain symptom-free:
- Soak cotton balls in rosewater and apply to closed eyes for 5-10 minutes.
- Add a few drops of aloe vera extract to cool water. Soak cotton balls in the solution and periodically gently wipe your closed eyelids with the cotton balls.
- Chamomile is also said to be very soothing to dry eyes. You can make chamomile tea, let it cool and then soak cotton balls in the tea or even apply the cooled tea bags directly.
- Slices of cucumber not only help relieve puffy eyes, they are said to be a great way to relieve dry, tired eyes.
If you work in an air conditioned office environment, consider purchasing a personal air humidifier. This can be placed on your desktop or on the floor and will help replace the moisture in the surrounding air.
Another way to combat dry, tired eyes is with your diet. Our modern diets often lack essentially fatty acids which, amongst many other benefits, help lubricate the eyes. Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, can be helpful or you may want to consider taking flax seed capsules as a dietary supplement. Vitamin A, too, has been shown to help keep the eyes moist and healthy. You can take Vitamin A supplements or eat more foods that are Vitamin A rich or a natural supplement such as cod liver oil, which contains high levels of Vitamin A as well as other ingredients that promote eye health.
If, in spite of your efforts, your eyes continue to bother you or if the condition worsens, it is probably time to consider seeing a health care professional. You may have a disease that requires medical attention. In most cases, though, a little prevention and natural treatment can go a long way towards relieving dry, tired eyes.