Occasionally, everyone will have red eyes or irritated, dry eyes. It is usually the result of spending too much time doing computer work, an environmental irritant, or not getting enough sleep. For those people who have problems with irritated eyes day after day, it can be extremely annoying.

There can be a multitude of factors, such as:

Nutrition & Diet

If a person has a particular sensitivity to foods or cosmetic products, that can be a source of irritation. In my practice, artificial sweetener consumption has been a notorious contributor for causing underlying eye irritation.

Environment

The environment, like humidity, could be a factor. Do you live in the Sahara Desert? Are you in a vehicle for many hours a day commuting with the heater or air conditioner on, creating an extremely dry atmosphere? Is your workplace a source of very dry air?

Hydration

If the environment and what you are putting in your body is not the issue, hydration may be the culprit.

First, let’s do a brief overview of the amazing lacrimal or tear system, the eyelids, what all goes on, and a number of the structures involved with keeping the front part of our eye healthy.

The cornea, the clear window of the front part of our eye, has an absolutely amazing design. The cornea is made up of five layers of tissue. The individual cells are arranged and the layers spaced precisely the right distance apart to allow the visible light spectrum to pass through the cornea. The majority of bending of light to focus into the eye takes place at the corneal surface. Any disruption or inflammation to the cornea will cause swelling. This will decrease the clarity of vision as light begins to scatter.

Under an electron microscope, the top epithelial layer of the cornea looks like the surface of the moon. Many irregularities become visible under a high level of magnification. That is where the tear layer comes in because it is responsible for the crystal-clear focus of light that takes place at the corneal surface. The liquid layer fills in over the top of those microscopic irregularities to provide a clear bending of light.

Our tear film is composed of three main components. There is a mucin or very thin, mucous component. It is closest to the top surface of the cornea. The epithelium has microvilli or microscopic finger-like projections that stick out and provide additional surface area for the mucin to be held against the epithelial cells. On top of that is a thin water layer. On top of that is a very thin oil film on the very top of the tear layer to decrease evaporation. If any of those main components are missing or in an improper ratio, problems can begin to arise.

From a dietary perspective, eating good fats (and being able to assimilate those fats) is an underlying foundational component to allow the body to have proper building blocks for a good-quality tear film base. Hydration would certainly be an additional factor. If the body is habitually dehydrated, it is going to be more difficult to have enough fluid for the tears to be in full production.

One not uncommon cause of repeated eye irritation can be due to what was just mentioned prior. At night, the major repair and regeneration of the corneal cells take place. The top layer of our cornea is replicated or replaced every seven to ten days.

At night, there is a lot of metabolic activity going on. If somebody is chronically dehydrated, it is not uncommon to have part of the repair process end up sticking to the inside of the eyelid. When the person wakes in the morning and opens their eyes, some of the repair cells are pulled off similar to the way a Band-Aid would pull a scab off a wound on your knee. Microscopically, that opens up the corneal scratch or abrasion, so the next night it is trying to repair again. You can have that recurrent corneal abrasion happening night after night, leading to persistent eye irritation. Please keep in mind the natural ophthalmic gel drops which we have found have a high rate of success for helping that particular condition.