Much of the eye discomfort we suffer from every day can be treated naturally at home.
Best overall remedy: Eat fish high in omega3 fatty acids, such as salmon, anchovies, mackerel and herring. People who eat fish regularly produce less arachidonic acid, a substance that can lead to chronic inflammation and eye damage. Aim for two to three fish meals a week. If you are not a fish lover, take a fish oil supplement.
Here, common eye problems—and the best home treatments…
The average American spends up to seven hours each day looking at digital images on computers, TVs, etc.
Result: Eyes that are irritated and dry.
Studies show that we blink at only about one-third of the normal rate when using a computer or watching TV. This causes eye dryness and an increase in muscle tension. Prolonged sitting also reduces respiration and oxygen saturation in eye tissues.
Natural care: Practice the "three B's." Blink more often...take deep breaths every minute or two to relax your eyes and your body and take a break every 20 minutes. Look away from the TV or computer screen, and focus on various objects at varying distances for about 20 seconds-preferably while standing—to get your eyes moving more fluidly.
Dry-eye syndrome usually is due to a decline in the quality and quantity of tear film, the oily liquid that coats the eyes when you blink.
Natural care: Practice the three B's" described earlier.
Also helpful: An oral supplement called BioTears, which improves the quality of the tear film. It contains a blend of omega-3 and omega6 fatty acids and other natural ingredients, such as vitamin E and curcumin. The use of preservative-free eyedrops, such as Tears Naturale Forte, also can help.
Important: Don't smoke. Cigarette smoke is a leading cause of dry-eye syndrome.
Redness typically occurs when blood vessels in the clear covering of the sclera, the white part of the eyes, dilate.
Main cause: Irritation from allergies, dust and/or excessive sunlight.
Natural care: Take 250 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C, four times daily. It strengthens blood vessels and helps with the formation and maintenance of collagen in the cornea, the transparent dome that covers the iris and pupil.
I also advise patients to take a B-complex supplement. B-vitamin deficiencies have been linked to bloodshot eyes.
Important: Do not use over-the-counter eye whiteners, such as Visine. These products reduce redness by temporarily shrinking blood vessels. The next day, most patients experience a "rebound phenomenon," in which the blood vessels dilate even more.
These are the squiggles, dots, strands and other shapes that drift in and out of your field of vision. They're the remnants of old, broken-down blood vessels that float in the vitreous, the transparent gel of the eye. Floaters also can occur when protein fibers in the gel clump together.
Floaters tend to get worse with age-not because they increase in number, but because the vitreous becomes more fluid and less gel-like. This allows the floaters to move more freely.
Natural care: An antioxidant-rich diet that includes fruits, vegetables (especially leafy greens) and whole grains. The antioxidants in these foods make the vitreous less watery.
Important: See an eye doctor if you notice a sudden increase in floaters or if floaters are accompanied by flashes of light. These additional symptoms could indicate inflammation of the retina or a retinal detachment.
This is an inflammation of the small glands and/or eyelash follicles on the surface of the eyelids. In addition to eyelid swelling, some patients may develop small sores. Also, some eyelashes may fall out.
Blepharitis that is accompanied by sores usually is caused by a bacterial infection. Other cases are caused by seborrheic dermatitis, a form of dandruff that also may affect the eyelids and eyebrows, along with the ears and the area around the nose and lips. Environmental irritants, such as allergens and smog, also can cause it.
Natural care: For blepharitis, apply a warm, moist washcloth to the eye. Keep it in place until it cools. Continue using compresses three or four times a day until the inflammation is gone. Heat and moisture increase circulation and the flow of nutrients to the eye. They also flush away inflammatory chemicals.
Also helpful: Use green or black tea to moisten the washcloth. The polyphenols in teas shrink swollen tissues and reduce inflammation
If the condition doesn't improve in two to three days, see your doctor. Bacterial blepharitis can be treated with an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin.
Caused by a bacterial infection in one of the tiny glands on the edges of the eyelids, a stye is a small pimple that can be painful as well as unsightly. Styes almost always clear up on their own within a week. Those that last longer (or that hurt a lot) may need to be drained by a doctor who also may prescribe antibiotics.
Natural care: Steam. Boil some water, and pour it into a cup. Close the affected eye, and bring it close to the cup to let the steam rise toward the stye. Be careful not to burn yourself Repeat three or four times a day. Or you can apply warm, wet washcloths. These help bring the stye to a head.
Caution: Do not squeeze the stye or "pop" the head. It can spread bacteria to the eye.
There are over-the-counter remedies that can help, such as Similasan. Avoid any that contain mercuric oxide, which can irritate the eye.
A scratch on the cornea-usually caused by dust or other debris can make the eye feel "scratchy." Patients often have the sensation that something is stuck under the eyelid even when the debris is gone.
Most corneal abrasions heal within a few days. To relieve the pain, you can take aspirin (not acetaminophen, which does not help with inflammation). See your doctor if the discomfort is severe or doesn't get better within 24 to 48 hours.
Natural care: Any sterile saline solution can help, and sleeping does, too. Also, keep the area around the lids clean to reduce the chance of bacteria getting into the eye.
This is a triangular-shaped growth that forms on the white of the eye—it usually is flat and yellowish with blood vessels going through it. People who spend a lot of time in the sun, such as farmers or surfers, tend to get it. Other risk factors include dust and living in a hot, dry climate. A pterygium (the "p" is silent) doesn't need to be removed unless it spreads onto the cornea and interferes with vision.
Natural care: Try to stay inside when the wind is blowing. Avoid smoky environments.
Reducing environmental irritants can slow or stop further growth.
Also important: Always wear a brimmed hat when you're out on sunny days. Also, wear sunglasses that block 100% of UV radiation—close-fitting wraparound styles are best.