Focused on eye health: dry eye symptoms and treatment

Feb. 28, 2024
If you have symptoms of dry eyes including eyes feeling tired, itchy eyes, intermittent blurry vision or vision, one of the best things to do is blink. Photo: istock.
Have symptoms of dry eyes, including tired eyes, itchy eyes, or intermittent blurred vision? One of the best things you can do is blink. Photo: istock.

If eyes are the windows to the soul, then it makes sense to give them as much care as the rest of your body.

“Eyes are like any other organ – they need care and attention,” said Dr. Nathan Hamburger, an ophthalmologist in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Symptoms of dry eyes

Symptoms of dry eyes include eyes feeling tired, itchy eyes, intermittent blurry vision or vision that might change when you blink.

Winter conditions can make things worse because of the drop in moisture in the outside air and the decrease of moisture inside because of heat. Add in the sun’s reflection on snow, along with strong winds during colder months, and it can lead to a host of eye problems.

“We do see a lot of dry eyes in the state, and especially up here in the mountains,” said Hamburger.

Disease prevention and protecting your eyes

The first line of defense to protecting your eyes includes wearing sunglasses, a hat or visor, goggles when skiing, and protective glasses when working with heavy machinery or tools.

Hamburger also recommends staying hydrated with lots of water throughout the day, especially if you’re physically active. Water helps produce tears, which are the eye’s go-to protectant.

“Tears keep your eyes moist and functioning properly,” he said.

He also favors taking frequent computer breaks, as you don’t tend to blink as much when you are using a screen. Blinking helps refresh your eyes with nutrient-rich tears and flushes away any dirt and debris.

“I tell my patients who sit in front of their computer for long stretches to take a break every 15 minutes or so by closing their eyes for about 10 seconds – it can really help,” he said.

Treatment for dry eyes

If dry eyes persist, Hamburger says it is fine to occasionally use lubricating or “artificial tear” eye drops. But there is an important caveat in the wake of a deadly bacteria causing infection, blindness and even death among some users in the United States that have been linked to recalled eye drops imported from other countries.

“Make sure it is a mainstream and name-brand eye drop bought from a reputable store or seller,” he said.

Hamburger tells people to avoid eye whitening drops or any product claiming to “get the red out,” as these can actually harm your eyes.

“They don’t treat what’s really going on and merely constrict the blood vessels that make the eye red, so that they just appear whiter,” he said. “But there could be something serious going on that the drops are masking.”

For some, dry eyes are not an occasional nuisance but a chronic condition. For instance, the older we get, the more likely we are to suffer from dry eyes. If over-the-counter drops are not working, he suggests consulting with a medical professional, as a prescription-strength eye drop might be necessary.

“Anytime you have significant pain, a decrease in vision or prolonged dry eyes that you can’t get relief for, you should get help,” said Hamburger.

Overall, the best way to keep your eyes healthy is to keep the rest of your body healthy.

“Exercising, eating right and taking care of your brain and heart – all that will contribute to keeping your eyes in good shape as well,” said Hamburger.

Mary Gay Broderick writes for UCHealth. She can be reached at [email protected].

About the author

Mary Gay Broderick is a Denver-based freelance writer with more than 25 years experience in journalism, marketing, public relations and communications. She enjoys telling compelling stories about healthcare, especially the dedicated UCHealth professionals and the people whose lives they transform. She enjoys skiing, hiking, biking and traveling, along with baking (mostly) successful desserts for her husband and three daughters.