How and why to pamper your eyes more
This week so far, we have talked about some things to do LESS of:
- reducing use of redness reliever drops, and
- identifying and reducing use of eye drops with toxic preservatives,
Now, let’s talk about some things to do MORE of!
Adopt a daily eyelid care routine.
A good eyelid care routine helps maintain health in the oil glands in your eyelids, which are a key part of your tear system. Unhealthy oil glands are by far the most common form of dry eye, because without oil, your tears evaporate very quickly. Oil gland disease develops slowly and often with no early symptoms, so you may not know you have a problem until it's rather far advanced. Exercising preventive care for your eyelids is one of the best things you can do for yourself! All you need is 10 minutes at most:
Cleanse your lids with something gentle. But please, not baby shampoo. Technically, it works, but... while it’s working it can cause additional eye irritation. Get a gentle foam eyelid cleanser that your eyelids love. We have lots of suggestions here. If you're seeing an eye doctor, they may have a recommendation. Eye Eco's foam cleanser with tea tree oil and the WeLoveEyes product line are some particular favorites.
Use a gentle warm compress for 5-10 minutes per day. This helps keep the oil glands in your lids happy and healthy. There are many ways to do a compress. The important things to keep in mind are (1) Not too hot - for both safety and comfort; and (2) Use something that keeps up a steady temperature. (Hint: Hot washcloths, not so much.) Personally, i us a rice baggy, but an excellent and wonderfully luxurious approach is Tranquileyes kits.
Stay hydrated, and be especially vigilant about drinking more water when you’re drinking things that dehydrate you or you’re in an extra drying environment.
My daughter recently installed an app on both our phones to remind us to drink water more frequently. It's cute (although I could live without the guilt when my little plant thingy looks unhappy or on its last gasp) and it actually does help me remember.
- Are you sleeping with a fan or a/c on? Wear a sleep mask. Blowing air, especially dry blowing air, is bad for dry eyes.
- Are you using a CPAP mask at night? Beware of leaking from the mask into your eyes. There are special shields made specifically to protect your eyes from this.
- Are you driving with the A/C on? Wear wrap-around sunglasses.
- Are you Rxing your sunglasses? Before you buy your next pair, consider choosing the frame not just for style but also for protection. A wrap-style that hugs your face is good; better yet, some styles have a thin foam lining that helps keep you more windproof.
- Are you outdoors in the wind a lot? Get sunglasses that offer maximal protection. 7Eye AirShields, WileyX Climate Control, and Liberty Ridge all have excellent completely windproof options. We have lots of suggestions in the optical department of the dry eye shop but your local sports optical store is a great resource.
If you’re going to be in a challenging environment - outdoors in the wind a lot, or just a very drying workplace - use artificial tears preventively, but make sure they are preservative free. Most preservative free artificial tears are sold in boxes of single use vials.
Flying, or driving long distance? Do all three.
In a maximally dry environment, you should max out the moisture to protect your eyes.
Drink up. Lube up. Cover up.
For flying, Onion Goggles are a cheap, handy way to protect your eyes but still be able to read or watch a movie. If you’re going to rest instead, a sleep mask or Tranquileyes goggles are a great way to keep protected.
Revisit makeup and makeup remover.
I can’t speak to any details on this - I rarely wear eye makeup myself, and don’t have any expertise on brands and ingredients. I just know it’s a big deal and something to do your homework on if you want happy eyes. The Facebook dry eye groups are good resources for suggestions.
Humidify your life.
HVAC and overly dry indoor air are big dry eye culprits. Most authorities recommend indoor humidity levels be maintained between 35-50% or thereabouts. Some say 40-60%. OSHA sets the ‘floor’ for comfort a bit lower, at 30%, and if your workplace is less than that, it can be something to talk to the HR people about.
Heavy computer user? Adopt eye-friendly strategies.
We’ll talk more about this next week too, but consider things like JustGetFlux, keeping your monitor as low as is compatible with ergonomics, working hard at consciously blinking more when you’re on the computer, and of course following the 20-20-20 rule.
If you really want to be a savvy computer user, wear dry eye glasses during long sessions.
A couple of shout outs
As we're talking about preventive dry eye care, there are two pioneers I would like to pay tribute to. I know there are many others who deserve many kudos, but today, I want to focus on two early entrants who have played key roles in improving how we can understand and practice dry eye prevention.
Suzanne Paulson, CEO/Founder of Eye Eco, Inc in Temecula, CA.
Suzanne has been working for more than 15 years developing and popularizing practical products that are useful both for dry eye prevention and for management of severe dry eye symptoms. Her company, Eye Eco, is located in southern California and her products include the well-known Tranquileyes eye hydration and moist-heat systems; Onyix, Quartz and Eyeseals moisture shields for overnight use; and a number of eyelid and facial therapies, as well as the unique Moisture Release Eyewear.
In the years I’ve known Suzanne and educated people about her products (we retail many of them in the DryEyeShop), my focus has necessarily been mostly on how her products are relevant to people with severe dry eye at night, because the 'acute' dry eye crowd are the ones my shop has mostly catered for. No one else is making products for the needs of people whose eyes dry out painfully, even dangerously, overnight! And Suzanne has done this so well… the majority of people with night dry eye issues are able to use one or more of Eye Eco’s products successfully. However, what Suzanne has also done that is so important - something I’ve never paid adequate attention to on my websites - is to introduce the moist heat therapy and eyelid care products into the mainstream for high quality preventive care. By reaching out to much broader health and beauty markets, she’s providing a real service in terms of popularizing prevention through effective methods. Suzanne has also put extremely important work into understanding how warm compresses ought to work and developing safe, effective, practical ways to deliver the right amount of heat for the right length of time.
Robert Latkany MD, a New York-based cornea specialist
Dr Latkany is author of “The Dry Eye Remedy: The Complete Guide to Restoring the Health and Beauty of Your Eyes” (2016 revised edition, Hatherleigh Press).
Dr Latkany’s book first came on the scene as early as 2007, when dry eye was exploding but dry eye resources, knowledge and products were scarce. At that time, we mostly still just had drops, and plugs, and Restasis.
What Dr Latkany did for us was to educate, educate, educate - about all the overlooked parts of dry eye, like MGD (this was before the industry, following on Lipiflow’s heals, started unleashing MGD treatments on us left and right) and lagophthalmos, and ocular allergy masquerading as dry eye, and ocular rosacea. Dr Latkany was a huge part of the birthing of a new era of better-educated dry eye patients.
But the reason I’m mentioning Dr Latkany here is that a lot of his book focused on the positive prevention steps that everyone can, and should, take to care for their eyes. He presented the idea of the dry eye spa, and simple daily things you can do for your eyes. He provided practical, doable instructions for caring for your eyelids, and explained in persuasive, accessible terms why everyone ought to. He encouraged the use of things like moisture goggles and moisture chambers. In short, Dr Latkany understood the role of non-medical “stuff” - not just for the severe dry eye patient, but for the health-conscious individual at risk who wanted to take good care of their eyes.