Dry eye syndrome

Our eyes show us the world. If something goes wrong with them, it can affect our total well-being. Dry eye syndrome makes eyes feel gritty, burning, itchy, and sensitive—discomforts that are hard to ignore! It typically manifests with age and affects as many as 30% of older adults.

What to do if your loved one has these symptoms: First, visit the eye doctor to understand the exact cause and identify any medications that are contributing to the problem. Then, try some proven soothing remedies:

  • Warm compresses. Place a warm washcloth over your relative’s eyes for five minutes twice a day, pressing gently at the base of the eyelashes. Reheat the washcloth whenever it gets cold. The water hydrates the eyes and the heat loosens oils in the eyelashes that can build up and interfere with tears.
  • Baby shampoo. The doctor may recommend massaging baby shampoo gently along the eye lashes to cleanse them more thoroughly.
  • Eye drops. Over-the-counter “artificial tears” can help, but avoid those designed to eliminate redness. Better are eye drops that come in small individual-dose containers. These drops lack preservatives and can be used five times a day or more.
  • Eye ointments. Ointments last longer than drops in terms of lubrication, but they make vision blurry. Save ointments for nighttime use.
  • More fluids. More water consumed means more moisture for the eyes.
  • Adding moisture to the air, especially in winter, reduces the likelihood of the eyes drying out.
  • Change contacts. Daily disposables may be less irritating to the eyes. Or change to glasses now and then.
  • Wraparound sunglasses. These can help reduce the evaporation of tears if your loved one spends time outdoors in wind and sun.
  • Less screen time. Try the 20/20/20 rule. Have your loved one get up every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, stretch, and focus on something at least 20 feet away.