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Ask the Expert: Dehydration and Dry Eye

Ask the Expert: Dehydration and Dry Eye

Can dehydration affect your eyes?

The ocular surface requires lubrication to function properly and be comfortable. If your eyes are dry, it can affect both visual function and comfort.

The most critical component of the tear film is the aqueous layer, which is composed mostly of water. If your body is dehydrated, this part of the tear film may be deficient. As a result, the surface of your eyes could have irritation and breakdown, which can result in blurry vision.

How can you tell if your eyes are dehydrated?

The symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • burning
  • foreign body sensation (“sand in the eyes”)
  • sensitivity to light

Also, dry eye can lead to a rough ocular surface, which interrupts incoming light and decreases visual clarity. You may notice increased eye strain and headaches as the day goes on or when trying to focus.

How do you fix dehydrated eyes?

Using topical drops and gels can be helpful. You can use over-the-counter lubricating drops when you feel discomfort. If you have more severe symptoms, you may need prescription-strength medications.

Proper hydration and nutrition can help with eye health. Drinking more water can help produce a greater volume of tears. Certain vitamins with omega-3 fatty acids, like fish oil supplements, can help oil glands work better and prevent tears from evaporating too quickly.

Can dehydration cause sunken eyes?

When your body is dehydrated, layers of tissue become less plump. The skin around your eyes is already thinner than other parts of the body, so any reduction in plumpness is visible relatively quickly. As a result, dehydration can cause your eye area to appear darker, discolored, sunken, or hollow.

Can drinking more water help dry eyes?

Drinking more water can help your body produce a healthy volume of tears, which is important to prevent dry eyes. It’s also important to have healthy lacrimal glands to produce tears and oil glands so that the tears don’t evaporate too quickly.

Beverages containing caffeine or alcohol can be dehydrating. Water (plain, naturally flavored, or carbonated) is best.

What are the best treatments for dehydration and dry eyes?

Dry eyes can be treated externally with lubricating eye drops and gels, and internally with adequate hydration and nutrition.

There are also minor in-office procedures that can help. In the corner of each eye, there is an opening called the puncta. Tears flow into this opening through the lacrimal ducts to your nose and throat. A plug can be placed in each punctum, allowing the tears to remain around the eyes and sustain lubrication, rather than draining immediately.

Dr. Vicente Diaz specializes in ocular inflammatory and infectious diseases at Yale Medicine and Yale Health. His research interests include novel immunomodulatory therapies for the treatment of non-infectious inflammatory disease, management of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and innovative therapies in glaucoma. After graduating from ophthalmology residency at Yale University, he completed a fellowship in ocular immunology and infectious disease at The New York Eye & Ear Infirmary, where he was recently on the clinical and research faculty. Dr. Diaz is director of ophthalmology for the Bridgeport Hospital Burn Unit, where he oversees the care of all patients with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and potentially lethal disease. Dr. Diaz founded the La Unidad Latina Medical Guild and was the architect of their annual medical mission to the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, and Honduras, where he performs surgery, teaches residents, and cares for patients in need. Dr. Diaz received his BA from Brown University, his MD from Yale School of Medicine, and his MBA at Yale School of Management.

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