Reduced tear production or increased tear evaporation can cause dry eyes, resulting in a gritty, itching feeling in the eye and persistent eye redness.
It’s a problem that affects many people, with typical culprits including allergies, environment, and contact lens use.
Over-the-counter and prescription eye drops can add lubrication. But while these remedies are effective, you might prefer a natural remedy.
Maybe you’ve heard that coconut oil is a great remedy for dry eyes. Is this true? And if so, how does it work?
This article will look at the purported benefits of coconut oil for dry eyes, including whether it’s safe for the eyes, and how to use.
Coconut oil is extracted from a mature coconut. Like other natural oils, it has numerous health benefits.
When consumed, coconut oil is a source of fatty acids, which can raise good cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s also believed that coconut oil can reduce hunger as well as protect the skin, hair, and teeth.
But what about your eyes?
When your eyes are dry, using an eye lubricant can quickly restore moisture. But it’s also important to understand the reason behind dryness.
Bacteria or inflammation
Sometimes, dry eyes are due to inflammation or bacteria — in which case you’d need a steroid eye drop (anti-inflammatory) or an antibiotic eye drop.
Since coconut oil has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antibacterial properties, some proponents believe that using these oils as an eye drop can naturally resolve dry eyes related to these factors.
Tear evaporation or less production
Other times, though, dryness isn’t due to inflammation or bacteria. You can also have dry eyes if your tears evaporate too quickly, or if your eyes don’t produce enough tears.
Along with eye irritation and redness, this can lead to blurry vision. Coconut oil might help reduce the irritation.
The problem is, there are no human studies on the effectiveness of coconut oil on dry eyes.
In the study, researchers divided nine rabbits into different groups, with each group receiving a different type of eye drop.
One group received virgin coconut oil, the other group received the product Tears Naturale II, and the third group received a saline solution. The rabbits were given eye drops three times daily for 2 weeks.
According to the results, virgin coconut oil successfully reduced dry eyes in the group receiving these drops. It was just as effective as the commercial eye drops.
The study also found that the coconut oil didn’t damage the rabbits’ eyes, thus suggesting it’s safe for humans to use for dry eyes. However, actual research on humans is needed.
If you use coconut oil for dry eyes, choose virgin coconut oil. This is unrefined, so it doesn’t contain chemicals that might diminish its effectiveness or be harsh on the eye and its tissue.
To use coconut oil for dry eyes, place two to three drops of oil into the affected eye. Or soak a cotton ball in coconut oil and then place the cotton over your closed eyelids for about 10 to 15 minutes.
If you prefer not to experiment with coconut oil for dry eyes due to lack of human studies, here are other effective ways to relieve dry eyes:
- Use over-the-counter artificial tears. These products can increase lubrication. If they don’t work, talk with your doctor. You might need prescription artificial tears, or your doctor might prescribe antibiotic eye drops to reduce inflammation.
- Apply a warm compress over eyes. Place a warm, wet cloth over closed eyelids for 5 minutes. This can soothe irritated eyes and reduce inflammation.
- Blink more often. If you work at a computer, make a concerted effort to blink often. This can keep your eyes moist. Also, give your eyes a break every 20 minutes. Walk away from the computer, or close your eyes for 20 seconds.
- Increase your water intake. Dehydration can also cause dry eyes. Sip on water throughout the day, especially if you work at a computer. Reduce your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, which can have a dehydrating effect on your body.
- Use a humidifier. Dry air can cause dry eyes. Use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Protect your eyes when outside. If it’s windy outdoors, wear wraparound sunglasses, especially if you’re exercising or enjoying outdoor activities. Also, point hair dryers and fans away from your eyes.
- Wash your eye lashes. Oils and debris can collect in eyelashes, causing eyelid inflammation that leads to dry eyes. Wash your eye lashes with a few drops of baby shampoo or mild soap. Avoid eye makeup that causes irritation.
- Increase intake of omega-3 fatty acids. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids might also reduce symptoms of dry eyes. You can take supplements or eat foods containing omega-3, such as flax seeds, salmon, and sardines. Omega-3 is effective because healthy fats can stimulate the oil glands in the eye.
Allergies, environment, and numerous other factors can contribute to dry eyes. Oftentimes, though, making a few adjustments and incorporating natural remedies like coconut oil can reverse symptoms.
If your dry eyes don’t improve with self-care, see your doctor. They can determine the cause of dryness and recommend an effective treatment.