Stress helps us to fight or flee a challenging situation. It helps us to focus all our energy to give us action at the right time.
Everyday stressful conditions might include things like work stress, psychological distress (like depression and anxiety), and anger or hostility.
Do you often feel tired? Too much to get done?
When the conditions subside, stress reduces, and our normal body maintenance takes over.
However, if we remain in stressful conditions for long periods, stress can significantly affect our health.
This includes increased vulnerability to disease. This includes conditions like diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and heart problems.
Stress can affect our behaviour. For example, we are altering our food choice, physical activity, and adherence to medications.
Imagine never taking your car to get serviced. You red-line the accelerator at every stop-light. Of course, you fill it up regularly. However, your engine begins to suffer. Increased friction leads to engine heat, friction, and wear. You risk damaging your car without maintenance.
Prolonged stress may also affect your eyes. Have you ever had:
- Dry eyes
- Itchy eyes
- Stingy eyes
- Sore eyes
- Gritty eyes
- Filmy eyes
- Burning eyes
- Watery eyes
- Light-sensitive eyes
If you said yes to any of these, you might have dry eyes.
Stress affects the normal functions of things in our eyes and body. That is, it puts things out of balance.
Did you know that there are over two thousand components that make up our normal tears?
Normal tears are different from emotional tears. Normal tears help to keep our eyes moist and our eyesight clear. Emotional tears happen when we are upset or angry.
Stress changes how smooth and regular our normal tears are. This makes our tears more vulnerable to drying, for example, to airflow, wind, air conditioning, or wearing a face mask.
One study found that dry eye disease was more prevalent with increased stress. This may be due to increased awareness of pain, increased systemic inflammation in the body due to stress or depression, which can increase the risk of dry eyes.
Stress can also affect sleep quantity and quality. Reduced sleep means that our bodies don’t get time to repair and recharge. People with poorer sleep quality tend to have a higher risk for Dry Eyes. Sleep deprivation can reduce the quality of normal tears.
Stress may also interrupt the normal blink frequency and quality. For example, if you’re in a stressful situation and need to find an answer urgently. You’re more likely to stare until you find what you need. Reduced blinking leads to increased evaporation.
How do we treat stress and dry eyes?
Mindfulness may be a useful option to improve dry eyes. Mindfulness often involves closing your eyes and focusing your mind on breathing. When the eyes are closed, our eye muscles and eyelids relax. Our lids provide a perfect cushion for the normal tears. The front of our eyes feels fresh again. One study showed that people with diabetes reported lower depression when practicing mindfulness.
Warm compresses for dry eyes may also help to reduce stress. Patients tend to put them over their eyes for between twelve to thirty minutes per session. Some warm compresses are done with the eyes open. Others with the eyes closed. Warm compresses tend to feel relaxing.
Prolonged stress can be bad for our overall health, including our eyes. It can lead to dry eyes. The effects can range from slight irritation to pain that is intolerable. Learn more about dry eye treatments at the Dry Eye Directory.
- Often feel stressed? Here’s what it does to your eyes - November 11, 2020