Many Iowans have spent much of the winter indoors, staring at a screen in a heated room and now their eyes are itchy, gritty and red.
Urbandale optometrist Dr. Teri Shepherd says it’s likely dry eye syndrome and relief may be as easy as eating more healthy foods or taking supplements that contain certain vitamins and minerals.
“During the wintertime especially with the use of furnaces and the indoor humidity, it can increase the symptoms of people who are susceptible to getting dry eyes,” Dr. Shepherd says. “You can find the supplements at Walgreens, Hy-Vee, anywhere you would normally find your daily multivitamin.”
She recommends taking in more omega 3 fats, also known as fish oils, in addition to several vitamins and minerals.
“The first two are lutein and zeazanthin, they help with macular degeneration and they’re found in green leafy vegetables and eggs,” Shepherd says. “Another one is vitamin C, it’s an antioxidant that’s in fruits and vegetables. This can help prevent cataract formation. Vitamin E is also an antioxidant. This one is found in nuts, fortified cereal and sweet potatoes.”
Another option for improving eye health is zinc, which is found in red meats, poultry, nuts and whole grains.
“Another thing you can do is just buy an over-the-counter artificial tear,” Shepherd says. “It’s definitely something you should discuss with your eye care provider. A couple that we recommend are Sustain and Refresh Optive.”
Dry eye syndrome is usually due to a problem with the quality of the oily tear film that lubricates the eye and prevents evaporation, something that’s often worse for women than men.
Besides hurting your general health, studies find that obesity can cause numerous eye problems. Also, smoking can increase your risk for cataracts and dry eyes, and smoking doubles the risk for macular degeneration.