Eye irritation is often due to a combination of problems involving the tear film and the eyelids. We typically recommend a combination approach in order to maintain the best environment for your eyes.
- Warm Compresses: Soak a clean washcloth with hot tap water. Fold the washcloth into a roll and hold it in contact with both eyelids until the cloth cools. Reheat the cloth and repeat this procedure for at least five minutes.
- Lid Washing: Following these warm compresses, lightly wash the eyelashes and eyelids with your eyes closed using a mild soap, such as baby shampoo, diluted in one capful of water. You can use either your finger or a soft washcloth.
- Lubrication: Once the eyelids and eyelashes have been cleaned, you can then use some lubricating eyedrops, such as artificial tears.
Although the artificial tears do help soothe irritated eyes, using them on a regular schedule, such as four times a day, can actually prevent the irritation that you routinely develop each day and can help prevent other problems. Once you develop irritation of the eye surface, it is often best to continue all of the above routines (warm compresses, followed by lid washing, followed by regular lubrication with artificial tears) on a daily basis. Your symptoms and irritation will fluctuate throughout the year and will almost inevitably return if you discontinue these routines.
Although rare, some patients have dry eyes in the middle of the night and irritation that wakes them or is significant by the morning. There is also an artificial tear ointment available that is particularly useful if applied just before going to bed. The ointment is not helpful during the daytime because it also blurs the vision.
Artificial tears are available in solutions with and without preservatives. For people with sensitive eyes, preservative free tears may be more appropriate.
William S. Rodden, M.D. and Christine R. Gonzales, M.D.
Vitreoretinal Consultants & Surgeons