This is just the worst time of year for eye woes. Dark circles, puffiness, tired and dry and itchy eyes… Even if you don’t suffer from hay fever, the pollen in the air can be irritating and inflammatory. Over the years, we probably get more questions about eye problems than any other subject. So here’s what we know.
Dark circles and/or puffy eyes and eye bags
If you’re short of sleep, get more and better slumber. This might sound obvious, but it’s key. Dark circles and eye bags are often linked to food allergies or intolerance, too, so if more kip doesn’t make a difference, cut out wheat – bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits – entirely for a week. Watch and observe and see if it helps. (Sarah’s eyes can be practically invisible in the morning if she’s had pasta or sandwiches the day before.) If it doesn’t, try avoiding all cow’s milk products. There could well be other food culprits, and you might want to try an elimination diet. A go-to book on that, for us, has become Solve Your Food Intolerance, by Dr. John Hunter. Also, do stick to fresh food, preferably organic; processed and/or conventionally-grown foods may contain additives that you’re sensitive to. Cut down on alcohol, sugar and sugary food, and salt (often hiding in processed foods), and drink lots of still, pure water.
For an immediate rescue strategy, stroke ice cubes over your eyes. (Well, it works for Linda Evangelista…) If you have time to lie down briefly – or somewhere you can lean your head right back – brew a pot of chamomile tea with two teabags (go for German chamomile, or Chamomilla recutita) and lay the slightly cooled, slightly squeezed bags on your eyes. Slices of cucumber are also very soothing, while raw potato contains an enzyme that helps to de-puff skin – lay slices straight onto your eyes.
If you use creams around your eyes, be careful not to get it too near – products should be applied on the bone of the eye socket; from there they travel to the skin near the eye itself, on their own. Eye products and cosmetics, however, may be another source of problems. If you suspect a culprit, bin it immediately – don’t go on hoping it will be all right or the problems may continue and be harder to solve. Remember that even natural ingredients can cause problems – ironically, Sarah’s eyes flare up if the herb eyebright goes near them.
Puffy eyes respond brilliantly to an instant ‘bag-draining’ detox in the shape of a run, a brisk walk or swim, followed by a sauna or Turkish bath – or the low-tech solution: steam your face over a bowl of hot water, with a drop or two of essential oil (such as rosemary) to perk you up. (So long as you’re not allergic to essential oils, of course.)
Red, bloodshot eyes
Sleeeeeeep! And clean up your diet. If you’ve excluded conjunctivitis (visit your doctor to make sure), and the veins in your eyes are always visible – outside this particular crisis moment in the eye allergy calendar, anyway – then the likeliest villain is lack of sleep. However, we’ve also noticed an amazing difference with a bit of detoxing and with green food supplements, such as Spirulina Powder by Lifestream, or Pukka Clean Greens Capsules or powder. (Powdered greens can be whooshed with fruit or vegetable juices for a power smoothie, of course.)
Tired, itchy, dry eyes
The mucous membrane around the eyes needs to be lubricated like every other part of your body, so drink more water – eight large glasses of still, pure water between meals. Also make sure you eat plenty of Essential Fatty Acids (and we recommend an EFA supplement such as Power of Krill).
Dry environments will dry your eyes, so if you work in an office, put a bowl of water and/or an ioniser on your desk. In winter, you can put a bowl of water by all the radiators. For instant help, try the chamomile teabag trick above, or treat your poor sore eyes to a squirt of Eye Logic Eye Spray for Dry Eyes (formerly known as Clarymist), a gentle, soy-based product that you spray on your eyelids (and trust us, it doesn’t make your make-up run). It’s said to help in 80% of cases of dry eyes, where the cause is tear evaporation, compared to most drops and gels, which are only effective in 20% of cases. NB If you have contact lenses, check in with your optometrist; there are now lenses specifically designed to help with dry eyes.
Computer Vision Syndrome
Long hours at the screen can lead to all sorts of problems. The symptoms of computer vision syndrome include sore, tired, burning, itchy, watery or dry eyes, blurred or double vision, headaches and a sore neck. You may also have trouble when you try to move your focus between your monitor and the papers on our desk. Jo writes about the life-changing benefits of acquiring a pair of ‘computer glasses’ here – but here are some other tips for those of us who have to spend a lot of our days staring at a computer monitor.
• Make sure you’re sitting straight in front of it, about an arm’s length away.
• The top of the screen should be at eye level or below so that you’re looking down slightly (you can get a sore neck if the screen is too high or low).
• Your keyboard should be centred, directly in front of the monitor.
• Your reference papers and books should be ideally placed at the same level, angle and distance from your eyes. (Do a bit of Googling for clamps with arms that you can attach to your computer, which can hold books etc. at eye level.)
• To minimise glare from bright lights, put your light source at a right angle to the monitor. NB Even though there’s light coming from the screen, we’ve observed that it’s much kinder to eyes to have a strong background light – a desk lamp or overhead lighting – rather than relying too much on the light from the screen itself.
• To reduce eye strain, take periodic breaks from the screen and focus on more distant objects. Try to schedule a five-minute break every hour. Stand up and move around, or just lean back and close your eyes for a few minutes. It can be helpful to ‘palm’, which is basically resting your palms over your eyes and allowing the warmth from your hands to relax them.
• Make an effort to blink frequently; if your eyes are dry, you’re probably blinking less than normal when you look at the screen. If that doesn’t help, get some artificial tears.
• Try taking bilberry extract, such as Solgar Bilberry Ginkgo Eyebright Complex.