Three experts weigh in on drops, supplements, herbs and tips to soothe tired eyes.
Aside from winter dryness and allergies, dry, tired eyes are related to the production or quality of tears. In some cases, the eyes may not produce enough to stay properly hydrated. In others, tears evaporate too quickly because the oil layer surrounding them breaks up prematurely. A weak oil layer is generally the result of an imbalance of lipids (or fats) in the body due to diet or allergies. Also, as we age, eyelid muscles become more flaccid and thus less effective at expressing tears.
To soothe dry eyes, apply drops recommended by your optometrist or doctor. Some drops help maintain moisture and protect tissue; others stimulate tear production. Adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement, such as flaxseed oil, to your routine can help, too. Antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, help protect the conjunctiva, the clear tissue that covers the white of the eye. And, finally, there is some evidence that B vitamins support the eye's protective tear layer.
—Ron Bateman, OD, Fort Collins, Colo.
The more time we spend absorbed in tasks that involve near vision—like reading or working on a computer—the more stressed out our visual system gets, often resulting in tired, dry, red eyes. Taking regular breaks from work every hour, practicing eye exercises, and tapping acupressure points around the eyes can help maintain healthy vision and reduce these symptoms.
Try this quick self-acupressure treatment next time your eyes start to feel strained: Gently massage the tissue around the eye, starting at the inside corner and massaging outward. Pause every inch or so and massage that point for approximately five to ten seconds. You may find that each point feels different in terms of sensitivity. Keep breathing as you massage. Deep breathing helps the cells of your eyes receive the oxygen they need for healing. You can massage both eyes at the same time and perform this massage as often as you like over the course of the day.
—Marc Grossman, OD, LAc, New Paltz, New York-based author of Beyond 3D (Magic Eye, 2004)
Dry, tired eyes often mean the body needs more omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A. Increase your intake of omega-3s by eating more salmon or sardines, or take a daily fish oil or flaxseed oil supplement.
To boost vitamin A, eat orange-colored fruits and vegetables, such as apricots, pumpkins and other squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Vitamin C, found in citrus and broccoli, is also essential to eye health. Supplements that support eye health include bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), lycopene, and five types of carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin, cryptoxanthin, alpha-carotene, and beta-carotene). Some herbs help increase circulation and strengthen eyes, including ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), butcher's broom (Ruscus aculeatus), horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum), and common hawthorn berries (Crataegus monogyna). For dosage, consult your health care provider. Finally, run a humidifier in your home, and keep houseplants, which naturally humidify the air.
—David G. Olarsch, ND, founder of the Institute for Naturopathic Health in Plymouth, N.H.