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FOX Medical Team

Plagued with dry eyes? There may be help

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ATLANTA -

As we flip on our heating systems for the winter, you're probably noticing how dry and itchy your eyes feel. The heat is not the only thing causing dry eyes. So, how can you get a little relief?

Anyone who wears contacts probably deals with dry eyes, especially if you sleep with your contacts. Dry eyes is one of the most common problems eye doctors see. Fortunately, there may be a quick fix.

"A lot of the time people say, ‘It feels like a pinprick, almost on your eyes.'  And there is, literally, a pain associated with it," said Dr. Reena Gupta of Ansley Eye Care.

Gupta knows, she had dry eyes for years.

"For me it was always worse in the mornings, so I'd turn the fan off above me," said Gupta.

Many things can suck the moisture out of your eyes: Too much computer time, indoor heating, wearing contacts too long, it could be the medications you're taking, or your hormones.

"In women, especially, there are either too many hormones or not enough. So a lot of my post- menopausal women, a lot of my pregnant women come in with dry eyes," Gupta said.

First, Gupta says see an eye doctor to figure out what's causing your dry eyes.
       
"The second thing to do is…your eyes are like a sink. So we can either open the faucet and put more liquid into the sink, or we can plug the sink drain," said Gupta.

She recommends inexpensive over-the-counter eye drops for that.
 
"If that does not work, or you're doing them 10 to 12 times a day, we can talk about plugging the sink," said Gupta.

Gupta says that's what finally helped her. She had super tiny silicone plugs, called punctal plugs, inserted into the drainage ducts of her eyes to keep her tears from draining too quickly.

"Mine have been in, I'd say for 4 years now. So I've had my punctal plugs in for so long I can't remember what it felt like without them," said Gupta.

The problem is common, but fortunately the fix usually pretty easy. Make sure you're drinking enough water, and try a moisturizing omega-3 fatty acid supplement. A switch to a less-drying medication, or contact lens, may help.

Gupta says often people with chronic dry eyes also have a secondary inflammation that needs to be treated. You may want to see an eye doctor to get that checked out.

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