Side Effect: Dry Eyes—Simple Tips to Bring Back some Comfort
Know that feeling of walking on the beach on a really windy day? You squint, blink, rub. Tears wet your skin. If you’re wearing contacts, they burn, like crazy. Eyeliner and mascara bleed and run, and eye shadow disappears or settles into lines.
If you’re going through treatment for cancer, this may sound like a normal day. Drugs like isotretinoin and tretinoin, cytarabine, fluorouracil (Adrucil, 5-FU, 5-Fluorouracil, Efudex); radiation; and medications to reduce side effects can all cause dry, gritty, sensitive eyes that water and itch, and often create blurry vision. Not a horrible side effect, but certainly one that can interfere with your daily activities, restrict your use of contact lenses, and screw up your makeup in a big hurry.
Unfortunately, besides using rewetting drops, there’s not much you can do about contact irritation. If they’re too hard to put up with, try wearing them for just a few hours at a time, or go with glasses.
To relieve discomfort, as always, ask your doctor—he/she may have some lubricating ointments you can use at bedtime. Your eye doctor can also prescribe artificial tears that you can use throughout the day. (Don’t confuse these with formulas that just reduce redness—they don’t address the cause of dryness.) A user favorite is NutraTear with vitamin B from the Dry Eye shop. You can also try one of the herbal eye drops at iHerb.com.
To help rejuvenate your eyes at night—and to avoid that burning, sticky sensation in the morning—try Tranquil Eyes hydrating goggles for around $50. The kit includes goggles, foam pads, and a travel case. The idea is you soak the foam pads in water, put them on your eyes and wear the goggles over them, to help seal in moisture and prevent the evaporation of natural and artificial tears.
To protect during the day, sunglasses are a must. We recommend that you take it a step further and go for one of the 7Eye (or similar) brands. These glasses form a seal around your eyes and really cut down on the wind and grime that can get into them—and a lot of them are really cool looking! Of course, stay away from smoke and wind whenever possible, and use a humidifier at night.
Another trick: consume more omega-3 fatty acids. Research from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston showed that women who had the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their diets reduced their risk of dry-eye syndrome by 20%. Eat more fatty fish (salmon, sardines), nuts, and flaxseed oil, or try fish-oil supplements.
What if you’re a woman? Do you have to go without eye makeup? According to Medical News Today, “…makeup that flakes and gets into the tear film can increase your eyes’ irritation. In such cases, you should discontinue use of powder eye shadow and glitter makeup.” Optometrist Andrew Pearson Gay reports, “Problems arise if the make-up is applied too thickly or in the wrong place. If eyeliner is put on the eyelid margin then it can act as a bridge that allows the skin oils to contaminate the tear oil. Mascara that finds its way down to the base of the lashes can also form a bridge for contamination.”
Makeup artist Bobbi Brown recommends you avoid lash-lengthening mascaras and powder shadows, and use thickening mascaras and cream shadows instead. (We like toxin-free cream shadows by RMS Beauty.) Apply mascara only to the tips of eyelashes, and refrain from using any on lower lashes. Look for products made for sensitive eyes (or contact-lens wearers) as well as hypo-allergenic formulas. (Try mercury-free Pure Soul mascara.) Remove makeup as soon as you can, rather than waiting until the end of the day. Avoid waterproof formulas—the rubbing required to remove them further irritates your eyes. Dr. Gay recommends you avoid Vaseline and baby oils (read more on the dangers of petroleum-based products), and use organic, toxin-free eye makeup remover for sensitive eyes, like Herbal Eye Makeup Remover From Eminence. Above all, don’t leave makeup on the eyes overnight, and replace makeup products frequently to avoid chance of infection.
Have you struggled with dry eyes during treatment? Have any tips?
Photo courtesy of Stzydek via Flickr.com