With summer here, people are spending more time outside and participating in fun summer activities that offer some relief from the heat. But when days can become so busy and hectic, it can be difficult to remember to stay hydrated! Our bodies need water to help flush out bacteria and toxins, regulate our body temperature and nourishes our cells, organs, and tissue. And because a large percentage of what makes up our eyes is water, staying hydrated is a great way to protect them.
In this blog, we will discuss a variety of topics relating to eye health and staying hydrated — why is it so hard to stay hydrated? What happens to our eyes when we are dehydrated? What is the function of our tears? How can we stay hydrated?
If you have any questions or if it’s time for an annual eye exam, visit our ophthalmologist, Dr. Sina J. Sabet. Getting a full eye exam from an eye doctor will ensure that any small issues are caught before they become serious.
Eye Health and The Importance of Staying Hydrated
Why is it so Hard to Stay Hydrated?
There are a surprising number of things that can cause dehydration other than just not drinking enough water:
- Diets high in salt
- Prescription medication
- Looking at screens
The fact that stress can cause dehydration is possibly the most surprising. When our bodies are stressed, it can affect the function of our adrenal glands, which regulate the levels of fluid and electrolytes in the body. Computer screens, phones, and TVs are other causes of dehydration. Whether it’s at work, scrolling through social media feeds, or binge-watching the latest show, the time we spend looking at screens adds up and can lead to digital eye strain. One of the biggest causes of dehydration, however, is our diets. Not only not getting enough water, but also consuming foods high in salt, processed foods, and drinking a lot of caffeine and alcohol.
What Happens to our Eyes When we are Dehydrated?
Our eyes rely on water, or fluid, to function efficiently. So without enough water in the system, it is more likely that our eyes will suffer from various symptoms. When the body doesn’t have enough water, symptoms include thirst, dry mouth, muscle cramps, headaches, sleepiness, and a decrease in the amount of tears produced.
The Function of Our Tears
As you can imagine, tears are essential in order to protect our eyes. Tears protect the eyes from irritants, keep the eyeballs clean and moist, and also help to protect them from damage. Tears form in the lacrimal glands, or tear ducts, that are in the corner of your eyelids.
Tears are made up of several components: water, electrolytes, proteins, lipids, and mucins. Even though tears look like just water, as you may have tasted, they also contain salt as well. Each component of tears plays a special role in the health of your eyes.
- Mucus: On your cornea is a tear layer that prevent dry spots from forming. A thin layer of mucus coats the surface of the eye and connects this layer to the eye.
- Water: The water on your eye is more like a saline, or salt solution that contains vitamins and minerals that support cell function found on the surface of the eye.
- Oil: The tear film is made up of oil that prevents tears from evaporating. Without oil, or with too much oil, tears will evaporate too quickly or will have difficulty forming, causing dry eye.
How Can We Stay Hydrated?
The easiest way to keep your body and your eyes hydrated is to consume plenty of water throughout the day. Other methods include:
- Use artificial tears if your eyes begin to feel dry or itchy.
- When using the computer, your phone, or watching TV, remember to blink often to keep your eyes moist.
- Use a humidifier in the fall and winter season.
- Avoid cigarette smoke and smoking, which can cause dry eyes.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays, wind, and irritants.
- Drink half of your weight in ounces — if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water each day.
- Replace old air filters in the home to keep the air clean.
- Eat juicy foods, including apples, watermelon, lettuce, oranges, cucumber, and celery.
- If you don’t like drinking plain water, add flavors like lemon or raspberry.
We might not always think about whether our eyes are well hydrated or not, but when your body or your eyes are dehydrated, you can feel the difference. If you are struggling with dry eyes, or any changes in your vision, schedule an eye exam with the ophthalmologist Dr. Sina J. Sabet. A regular exam with an eye doctor will ensure that your eyes are healthy and protected.