Give the eyes a break: When people blink, the meibomian glands in the eyelids release a wave of oil onto the surface of the eye, which keeps it clean. This should happen every four seconds or so. But when the eyes are glued to a screen—whether it’s watching television or putting in a long day at the office—people blink less frequently and or incompletely. This contributes to dry eye, eye strain and a host of other problems. One common solution is to take screen breaks following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And remember to blink often; some people even practice what is known as mindful blinking. Most importantly, after a long day of eye work, find a recreational activity that gives the eyes a rest.
Increase the humidity: In winter, the heater can drop the humidity level dramatically, increasing tear evaporation and irritating eyes. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air. Forty percent humidity while sleeping is ideal.
Keep it clean: As tempting as it may be to sleep while wearing contacts or makeup, it’s not worth the risk of dry eye. Bacteria and eye makeup can clog meibomian glands, which reduces the amount of oil, or lipids, in tears and leads to dry eye symptoms. In fact, dry eye symptoms appear to affect about half of all contact lens wearers, and meibomian gland dysfunction is considered to be the root cause of this.
Know the triggers: Allergies, some medicines, air conditioning, windy weather and overuse of the eyes can all contribute. Awareness of the signs and triggers—and seeking professional help when symptoms continue, is the best bet for managing dry eye.