Can dry eyes be treated at home? Yes! Mild to moderate cases of dry eye can be treated at home with various remedies, including lubricated eye drops, proper eye protection and warm or cool compresses — even changes to your diet can help with dry eye. The best home or natural remedy for your dry eyes depends on what caused the dryness to begin with. Dry eyes occur when the eyes don’t produce enough tears. Dry eye can be the result of reactions to medications, certain medical conditions, lifestyle choices and the aging process itself. While severe cases of dry eye may require prescription-strength treatment from an eye doctor, relief for milder conditions may be found in the following home remedies for dry eyes:
Cool compress to soothe dry eye
A cool compress is recommended for alleviating the burning sensations that can come with dry eye. It can be especially helpful if symptoms are aggravated by overexposure to digital screens (digital eye strain), or for those who struggle with tasks such as reading and driving due to dry eye. A cool compress can reduce inflammation around the eyes. In addition to treating dry eye, you may even find relief for vision-related headaches by using a cool compress. To use: Apply a cold, damp washcloth over your eyes for 20-30 minutes at a time. An ice pack is also recommended, but be sure to use a cloth buffer between your eyes and the ice pack to avoid direct contact.
Warm compress for dry eye
In order to stay moisturized, eyes need a healthy amount of water, oil and mucus. If the oil glands that provide moisture are inflamed and/or clogged, it can result in — or aggravate — dry eye symptoms. Warm compresses can help relieve this discomfort and promote circulation for the eyes to produce moisture properly. A warm compress can also help reduce crusty eyelids and may help manage the cause of any inflammation that may be worsening your dry eye symptoms. To use: Use warm water to dampen a washcloth, wring it out and place over closed eyes for a minimum of one minute. Be sure not to make the water too hot as it may cause burns. Apply a small amount of pressure to help unclog oil glands. (You may need to wet the cloth again to keep it warm.) Repeat this process as needed, whether occasionally or on a daily basis.
Lubricated eye drops (artificial tears) formulated for dry eye
Artificial tears can support natural tear production and add moisture to dry eye. A variety of eye drops designed to treat dry eye are available over-the-counter, but an eye doctor may prescribe drops with more strength or an ointment to treat more severe cases of dry eye. Better brands include Refresh, Systane, Retain, Blink and TheraTears. To use: Apply drops to eyes as needed to relieve irritation and promote tear production. Avoid drops for “whitening” and “anti-redness” as these may worsen your condition.
Eye protection to prevent dry eye
Proper eye protection can help ease and prevent irritation related to dry eye. Protection is particularly useful when it comes to ultraviolet (UV) radiation and light from digital screens, as this potentially harmful light can contribute to dry eye. To use: Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection when outdoors, and try blue light blocking eyeglasses when using digital devices such as a computer, tablet or smartphone — or reduce screen brightness on your digital devices when using them.
Clean around eyes appropriately to avoid dry eye
Keep the area around your eyes clean to reduce build up of sweat, dirt, old makeup and more that could be clogging your eyes’ oil glands. Avoiding bothersome facial cleansers and certain cosmetics, such as those with artificial fragrance or essential oils, can also give dry eyes some relief. You should also throw out any old eye makeup that could be irritating your eyes, and never (ever) share eye makeup or makeup tools.
To use: If irritation is brought on by soap or makeup, use only cleansers and cosmetics with formulas designed for sensitive skin. Use a clean cotton swab to clean eyes when needed, especially to address eye discharge that may have built up overnight.
Try a humidifier to treat dry eye
Dry eye can be even more irritating in a dry environment. A humidifier can add much-needed moisture to the air in your home — especially during winter months — and reduce eye dryness caused by environmental irritation. For optimal results, make sure the air you breathe is also properly filtered. To use: Fill the machine’s tank with water and turn on your humidifier as needed, and change air filters on a regular basis to promote healthy air circulation.
Maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated to prevent dry eye
Be sure you’re getting enough water in your diet to keep your body, including your eyes, hydrated appropriately. In order to maintain hydration, drink at least 8-10 glasses of water every day — even more if you indulge in coffee, soda, tea or alcohol. Additionally, food and supplements with eye healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A can promote general eye health, which is beneficial in treating dry eye at home.
When to see an eye doctor for dry eye
If home remedies and natural remedies for dry eye do not seem to help your condition, or if your condition seems to be getting worse, it may be time to consult an eye doctor. Some cases of dry eye may be due to an underlying condition, and your eye doctor can help establish the appropriate treatment plan for you.