How to Relieve Dry Itchy Eyes

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To relieve dry, itchy eyes, use hot compresses over your eyelids once or twice a day for five minutes. Scrub your eyelids with baby shampoo and warm water to relieve dryness with help from an ophthalmologist in this free video on eye problems.

Part of the Video Series: Eye Problems
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Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Dr. Richard Cohn from the Cohn Eye Center in Maitland, Florida, and today we are going to talk about how to relieve dry and itchy eyes. There are several causes for dry and itchy eyes, but the most common is called Blepharitis. Blepharitis is inflammation of the eyelid margins, the edge of the lids. In patients with Blepharitis, we see oils in the oil glands that are thicker than most patients. We also have bacteria on our skin and when you get bacteria build up on that thick coat of oil, patients get crusting of the lid margins, they get discomfort and they also have a poor oil coat on top of their tear film. The oil coat helps prevent the tears from evaporating so if you don't have a good oil coat your tears will dry off the eye more quickly. The treatment for Blepharitis usually starts with hot compresses, a nice hot wash cloth over the lids for five minutes once or twice a day and scrubbing the eyelids. Scrubbing the eyelids is usually done with diluted baby shampoo and a glass of warm water and we use a cotton tip applicator with the lid pulled down looking in the mirror to scrub the edge of the eyelids. Other commercial preparations can be used that either come in a pump foam that you pump on your fingers and rub on to your lids or they come in little pads that you tear open and you take out the soapy pad. This soap is usually diluted and mild and doesn't disturb the eyes. I usually recommend this be done at least once or twice a day chronically as Blepharitis is a chronic condition and needs continuous treatment. Severe cases can be treated with the addition of antibiotic or steroid eye drops by your ophthalmologist. Itching of the eyes can either be from Blepharitis or it can be from allergic eye conditions. Ocular allergies are more commonly seen in patients with environmental allergies to things like pollen, dust mites, animal dander. This can be treated with oral antihistamines or antihistamine eye drops that are prescribed by your ophthalmologist. Other things that patients with dry eyes should know is that certain activities can make your eyes more dry and uncomfortable. For instance, long term computer use. When we use a computer our blink rate, the frequency with which we blink cuts down significantly. Blinking is our eyes way of lubricating the surface of the eye and keeping it more comfortable. Also doing a lot of reading or watching TV can also decrease the blink rate. So I recommend that patients make a mental note to blink more often. Also be cautious with the use of ceiling fans or desk fans or air conditioners that blow out, blow towards your eyes as this can create more dryness. The use of over-the-counter artificial tears can be very helpful but I usually recommend that patients stay away from vasoconstrictors designed to get the red out as this can irritate the surface of the eye. There are also tear gels that are a little thicker that can provide even better relief and I recommend that if patients use artificial tears more than four times a day that they use a preservative free type of tear. Some systemic diseases can be associated with dry eyes like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus or thyroid disease and I usually recommend that for severe dry eyes that patients use a Cyclosporine type of eye drop. This works by killing T cells, inflammatory white blood cells, that are in the tear film and these white blood cells attack the gland that makes tears on the surface of the eye. By doing that it allows us to produce a better, more thorough tear film for our eye. Talking about dry eyes, I'm Dr. Richard Cohn.

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