What Are Home Remedies For Chronic Dry Eye?

Treating chronic dry eye may require multiple treatments. Some methods for treating dry eye may also include complementary medicine and home remedies. These are methods that are used along with standard treatment to manage and improve your symptoms.

Warm compresses

The meibomian glands are located at the edge of each eyelid. These produce and release the oily (lipid) layer of the tears. If these gland openings are blocked, there will not be enough oil in the tear film, and tears may evaporate too quickly. This may lead to dry eye symptoms. This is a condition known as meibomian gland dysfunction.1

Warm compresses applied to closed eyelids may help to soften the hardened oil (meibum) and restore the oily layer of the tear film.1

Eye masks

An alternative to warm compresses are eyelid warming masks, such as Tranquileyes®. These reusable goggles have soft, jelly beads contained in a fabric pouch. The pouch can be heated in the microwave with water and placed in the goggles. This provides moist heat to improve meibum flow and improve dry eye symptoms.1

Eyelid hygiene and scrubs

Healthy eyelids are often overlooked. Your eyelids have important jobs to do. Not only do they protect the surface of your eyes, but they also help with lubrication and hydration. This ensures your blinking is smooth and your vision is its best.

Some eyewashes are made to cleanse the eyelid or eyelashes, depending on the condition. Your doctor may recommend tea tree oil if you have Demodex, which is a harmless infestation of mites that sometimes attach to the eyelashes. Gentle shampoos or special washes may be recommended to help rid your eyes of the mites.2,3

Environment changes

Managing your environment may help ease your dry eye symptoms. Dry, windy environments may worsen dry eyes. Using a humidifier at home may help.1

Hydration

Drinking more water may help with mild dehydration, which may cause dry eye symptoms.1

Sleep habits

Results of a 2016 study showed that those who sleep on their back report fewer symptoms of dry eye disease than those who sleep on their side or stomach. This may suggest that friction from pillows or sleep surfaces may irritate the eye, leading to dry eyes.4,5

Sleep quality matters. Some studies have shown that self-reported sleep disturbances or conditions lead to an increased risk of dry eye syndrome. These types of studies are difficult to replicate because of self-reported symptoms from surveys. More studies are needed to learn more about how sleep can impact dry eyes.4,5

Digital workspace changes

It seems like everyone stares at a screen throughout the day. Whether it is your computer, phone, e-reader, or other devices, chances are you are staring at a screen during the day. Research has shown that nearly 60 percent of those who routinely use digital devices report dry eye symptoms, which may be part of a group of symptoms referred to as digital eye strain.6

There are some things you can do to help prevent or lessen digital eye strain:6

  • Take frequent screen-free breaks and blink more. When you stare at a digital screen, you blink less, leading to dry eyes. Try to look away at different objects during your break. This helps exercise your eyes and helps to ease eye strain.
  • Adjust your display settings. Try to make the brightness of your screen similar to the brightness of your environment. You may have to adjust the text size and contrast of your screen for your comfort.
  • Blue-light-blocking glasses may help decrease dry eye symptoms caused by viewing digital screens.

Stopping smoking

Smoking has been linked to dry eye disease. Smoking can lead to inflammation, including inflammation of the ocular surface.7

Eyewear and lenses

Special moisture-retention glasses, such as moisture chamber glasses, may effectively treat symptoms related to chronic dry eye. These glasses have chambers on the side of the frames that are filled with water to produce humidity and improve hydration to the eyes.8,9

Rigid gas-permeable scleral lenses are contact lenses that allow for 2 to 4 times more oxygen to reach the surface of the eye versus soft contact lenses. This allows these lenses to both protect and help keep the eye healthy.10

Choosing the right sunglasses is important to the overall health of your eyes. Ask your doctor about your needs and recommendations.

Blinking exercises and eye massage

Normal blinking washes the tears over the surface of your eye, keeping your eye moist, protected, and helps to maintain clear vision. Staring at a computer screen, phone, or other electronic devices can lead to decreased blinking.1,6,11

Gentle massage of the eyelids helps to promote the secretion of the oil from the meibomian glands. This can help relieve symptoms of dry eye. Eye massage may be performed manually at home, with your hands and a warm washcloth, or by a device used to apply gentle pressure on your eyelids. Your eye doctor may also use different devices to perform eye massage.1-3

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Written by: Katie Murphy │ Last reviewed: June 2021