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Dry Eye After Eye Surgery: Why Does It Happen and How to Treat It

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Eyes feeling dry and gritty after eye surgery? It happens to most patients who undergo LASIK or cataract surgery.

Dry eye syndrome is a common side effect of eye surgeries. Surgery disrupts your tear film, leading to dry, inflamed, irritated, and itchy eyes.

But there are many ways to treat eye dryness. What’s better, you can get started at home with simple remedies like applying a warm compress and massaging your eyes.

Why Does Eye Surgery Cause Dry Eyes?

From corneal nerve damage to inflammation, bright light exposure, and the use of medicated eye drops, there are many reasons why dry eye after cataract surgery is so common.

That said, dry eye symptoms after surgery are temporary. They typically improve about a month post surgery, according to a 2020 study.

Let’s take a closer look at the main causes of dry eyes after surgery.

  • Corneal nerve damage: The nerves in your cornea are involved in tear production. But eye surgeries, like LASIK, can cause corneal nerve damage. This in turn may reduce your blink rate and tear production, causing eye dryness.
  • Lipid layer thinning: The lipid layer helps stabilize your tear film and prevent it from evaporating. But eye surgeries, especially for cataracts, can make the lipid layer thinner. This makes the tear film unstable, resulting in dry eyes.
  • Ocular inflammation: Inflammation is common after eye surgery. Although temporary, it can decrease tear production and cause dryness.
  • Light exposure: Another factor for dry eyes after surgery is bright light exposure. During eye surgery, your surgeon will focus a microscope with bright light on your eyes. This may affect the tear-producing goblet cells in your eyes, causing dry eyes.
  • Medicated eye drops: Medicated eye drops help manage pain and swelling after eye surgery. But these may have side effects, too. The preservatives in certain eye drops can slow down healing and worsen dry eye.

Symptoms of Dry Eyes After Surgery

Dry eye and cataract surgery are interlinked. The result can be a range of uncomfortable symptoms, the most common being grittiness and general eye discomfort.

closeup of old human eye surrounded by wrinkles

Here are some of the other symptoms of dry eyes after eye surgery.
  • Eye irritation and dryness
  • Stinging or burning sensations
  • Blurry vision
  • Redness
  • Gritty feeling in the eye, like there is sand in them
  • Changes in vision
  • Difficulty reading
  • Strings of mucus around the eye
  • Discomfort while wearing contact lenses
  • Excessive tearing
  • Sensitivity to light and wind
  • Eye pain
  • Foreign body sensation in your eyes

Treatment for Dry Eyes

From washing your eyes to applying warm compresses, here are some treatments that may improve your dry eye symptoms.

Take Nutritional Supplements

You can start with general nutritional supplements for dry eyes. Vitamin A will help increase tear production while vitamin B12 will alleviate burning sensations. Vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids help ease inflammation in the eye.

Next, consider taking an eye health supplement like SightC. A full-spectrum vision supplement, SightC packs antioxidants and phytonutrients from superfoods.

It’s rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, natural pigments which occur in the eye. SightC comes in the form of easy-to-take vegan capsules and is gluten free.

Key ingredients include goji berries, turmeric, Cherokee rose, dwarf lilyturf, dandelion, Chinese yam, and hawthorn berries.

Discover SightC, the natural supplement that makes your eyes happy.

Massage Your Eyes

A bit of pampering can also help relieve eye dryness. Gently massage the areas around your eyes in a circular motion before bedtime. This will stimulate the tear glands and reduce dryness when you wake up.

A gentle eye massage has other benefits, too. It will relax your eye muscles, improve blood flow, and alleviate tension.

Apply Warm Compresses

Using a warm compress can also treat dry eye symptoms. The heat will soothe eye inflammation and irritation. Additionally, it will stimulate your tear gland to produce more tears.

To make a warm compress, soak a face cloth in hot water. Then squeeze out the excess water and fold the cloth. Place it on your eyes for about 5 minutes and repeat.

Blink Your Eyes Often

This might sound like an obvious thing to do, but you may sometimes forget to blink for long periods. This is especially true when you’re working on digital devices like laptops, computers, and smartphones. As a result, your eyes can feel tired and dried out.

closeup of woman's eyes seen from profile with long lashes

Try to blink more often, and make sure your blinks are complete. Blinking will help spread tears over your eyes and keep them lubricated. It will also nourish your eyes and supply oxygen to them.

Wash Your Eyes

Keeping your eyelids and eyelashes clean is an essential part of eye health. It also helps with excessive dryness and bacterial buildup.

Washing your eyes removes crusty layers and unclogs your oil glands. But make sure to use only a mild soap or baby shampoo to wash the base of your eyelids.

Wear Wraparound Sunglasses

Using wraparound eyewear is another way to treat dry eyes. These glasses will shield your eyes from dust and wind. As a result, your tear film will not dry out, keeping your eyes moist for longer periods.

Sunglasses will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, too. Plus, they reduce light sensitivity and keep dust and irritants from aggravating your dry eyes.

Eat a Healthy Diet and Stay Hydrated

Consuming a rich diet can help reduce your risk of dry eye after LASIK. According to a study, eating omega-3 fatty acids, like seeds and seafood, can improve your tear quality. At the same time, don’t forget about other eye-friendly vitamins like A, B12, and D.

woman holding big watermelon slice in front of her face as a smile

Your eyes also need plenty of water to stay healthy. Aim for 8 to 10 glasses of water each day to improve tear production. Water-rich foods like watermelon and cucumbers also count.

Reduce Your Screen Time

Reducing your daily screen time is a simple but effective way to deal with dry eyes. Limit the use of digital devices, blink often while using them, and take regular screen breaks.

A simple trick is to follow the 20-20 rule: rest your eyes for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This will help your eyes regain some of their moisture. Plus, your eyes will feel better rested by the end of the day.

Build a Healthy Lifestyle

Certain lifestyle changes can also help combat eye dryness. When possible, avoid dry and windy areas. Also, use a humidifier to add moisture to indoor air.

You can also ditch contact lenses, as they reduce the oxygen supply to your eyes. Wear spectacles instead. Make sure to remove eye makeup before bedtime. And finally, try to get a proper night’s sleep for good eye health.

The Wrap-Up

Dry and gritty eyes after surgery can be annoying. Although the condition is nothing serious, it can take a while to go away.

In the meanwhile, you can take certain steps to treat dry eyes at home, starting with eating a healthful diet.

Additionally, soothe dry eye symptoms by using warm compresses, massaging your eyes, and washing them. Also, reduce your screen time, blink often, and wear sunglasses. And don't forget to take an eye health supplement.

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