ATLANTA - The spring pollen season is gone, so why are your eyes still so irritated and itchy? Dr. Kristie Bennett, an Atlanta optometrist and the owner of the Highland Eye Boutique, says the problem may be a condition known as "dry eye."
Dry eye can be caused by a lack of tear production, tears that evaporate too quickly, or an imbalance in the tear mixture of water, oils and mucus.
Or, Bennett says, the problem might be that fan you're sleeping under to beat the heat.
"We have our air-conditioning in our cars blowing on us," Dr. Bennett says. "That can dry out our eyes."
Another dry eye culprit? Too much computer time.
"A lot of us with our jobs nowadays, we're on the computer a lot," Bennett says.
When we are fixated on a screen, or even a book we're reading, we don't blink often enough. So, D.r Bennett says take breaks, using the 20/20/20 rule.
"Look at something else ever 20 minutes, 20 feet away for 20 seconds," Bennett explains. "During that time, if you blink, that helps rehydrate the eyes."
Wear wearing contact lenses for too long can also dehydrate your eyes. So can medications like antihistamines, antidepressants and birth control pills.
Dry eye is more common in women, especially during pregnancy and menopause, and in people with autoimmune disorders like Lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
"But there's also a condition called blepharitis, which is irritation on the eyelids," Bennett says. "And people will think their eyes are itchy, but it's actually the eyelids that are itchy, from inflammation of the eyelids."
The good news? Most of the time, Bennett says, over-the-counter eye drops can help add moisture back into your eyes. She recommends rehydrating drops like artificial teams.
"Use them twice a day helps to lubricate the eye and get them ready for the day, kind of like putting on hand lotion and moisturizing your hands," she says.
If you're symptoms don't improve after a week or so, see an eye doctor, Bennett says. You might need a prescription eye drop to help restore the moisture balance in your eyes.