Have you ever dealt with dry, itchy eyes? They may sting, feel gritty or overly sensitive. This is a common condition that affects as many as one in three people. Now, what if I told you that using coconut oil for eyes could ease discomfort naturally?
Also known as keratitis sicca or xerophthalmia, dry eyes can result when tear fluid is produced too slowly or evaporates too quickly. While it’s common to ease discomfort the obvious way — by adding more fluid to the eyes in the form of eye drops — it’s important to investigate what’s behind this seemingly simple, yet potentially complex problem.
WHAT CAUSES DRY EYES?
Dry eyes are more common in older people, but the problem can occur at any age. There are many factors that contribute to temporary or chronic dry eyes. For example, a number of medications may cause eye discomfort as a side effect:
- ACE (angiotensin-converting enzyme) inhibitors
- Sleeping pills
- Birth control pills
- Acne medications with isotretinoin
- Morphine and other opiates
Dry eyes can also be tied to medical conditions which affect the eyes and tear ducts. Some of these illnesses include shingles, Bell’s palsy, HIV, diabetes, arthritis and lupus. Skin conditions such as rosacea can also result in inflammation along the eyelids or clogged glands, interfering with healthy tear production.
OTHER CAUSES OF DRY EYES
Dry eyes may also be caused by Lasik surgery, a surgical procedure that uses a laser to correct nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism. A study conducted by the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Michigan concluded that post-Lasik dry eye is extremely common. It affects approximately 20 to 40 percent of patients and can be a significant problem for patients and their eye-care providers. And with about one million procedures completed annually, that’s a lot of people suffering from dry eye syndrome.
Another little-known culprit behind dry eyes is a dangerous nutritional deficiency. Those lacking vitamin A can easily develop dry eyes. Other nutritional deficiencies can also hinder eye health.
Menopause with its associated hormonal changes is also commonly linked with dry eye syndrome. In fact, research published in JAMA Ophthalmology reports that dry eyes affect 60 percent of menopausal women. Additionally, women are almost three times more likely than men to have the condition. While most cases are seen after menopause, some women with premature ovarian failure may also develop a higher risk of dry eye.
But, for most people, dry eyes are usually the result of too much time spent in front of the computer, television or even outdoors in the wind and sun.
COCONUT OIL FOR EYES
I have had dry eyes for as long as I can remember. This may be partly due to the fact that I work online — spending a lot of time in front of a computer tends to dry out anyone’s eyes. I also think that there is a hereditary component to my dry eyes, as my father also has this condition. Add contacts to the mix and my eyes often feel uncomfortable by the end of the day.
When my dry eyes become unbearable, I generally reach for some kind of ocular lubricant (a solution specially formulated to moisten the eyes) found in most drugstores. However, after some research on my favorite natural solution, I found, even to my surprise, that I could use coconut oil in my tired and sore eyes.
NORMAL EYE FUNCTION
Under normal circumstances, our eyes produce tears on a constant basis. Tears come out of tiny ducts and glands in the corners of the eyes and along the eyelids. The fluid is made up of three layers: oil, salt water and mucus. These form a film that assists vision and keeps eyes clear and comfortable in the time between blinking.
When the eyes become too dry, they can get red, painful and sensitive to light. Even eyesight may begin to suffer as a consequence of a lack of moisture.
DANGERS OF OVER-THE-COUNTER REMEDIES
Like many conditions, there are a plethora of “remedies” available for dry eye syndrome at your local drugstore. Americans spend more than $300 million annually on artificial tear drops and over-the-counter treatments. But sadly, there’s no actual cure that comes in prescription form.
Like me, you may be slightly overwhelmed when you walk down the aisle. I have tried many products over the years. Some help take out the redness, others seems to offer some temporary relief to the dryness, but few can handle my condition like my favorite natural solution… coconut oil.
For years, I have studied, read about, written about and put into practice what I know about coconut oil. However, until just recently, I had never put this tropical wonder in my eyes. It never occurred to me to use coconut oil for my dry eyes problem, until a friend of mine suggested it to me.
WHAT MY RESEARCH UNCOVERED
Like all things, I like to do my research before trying anything new, even with my tried-and-trusted coconut oil. As expected, I uncovered quite a bit of anecdotal evidence regarding the effectiveness ofusing coconut oil for eyes, as well as one recent pilot study published in the Journal Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
In this study, three rewetting substances were compared: virgin coconut oil, Tears Naturale II and a saline solution (as a control). The purpose of the study was to explore the efficacy of virgin coconut oil as an ocular rewetting agent on rabbit eyes.
Researchers divided nine rabbits into groups and assigned each group with one of the three different eye drops. For the purpose of the study, the contents of each bottle were concealed to researchers. Drops were instilled topically in the tested eye — three times daily, for two weeks — with a follow-up after the 14th day.
The study demonstrated that using coconut oil for eyes was successful in reducing dry eyes. Study leaders noted that the oil did not cause any harmful effects on the rabbit’s eyes and that it might be useful for humans with dry eyes. In fact, research suggests that virgin coconut oil even works in the same way that commercial eye drops and saline solutions do. That’s not surprising since coconut oil’s anti-inflammatory properties are similar to natural tears.
This information, combined with the anecdotal reports I found, was enough to convince me to try some organic coconut oil for my dry eyes. After all, I know the reasons why coconut oil is so amazing, and it really made sense to me that it could help dry and tired eyes.