Dry, Irritated Eyes
One important question I always ask patients is: Are your eyes more dry in the morning or later in the evening?
Dry eye in the evening may seem more intuitive: Working on the computer, long hours, watching TV surfing the internet all result in decreased blink rates and frequencies, thus resulting in drier, more irritated eyes.
But what about if you wake up in the morning with red irritated eyes? One might think that after a full night of sleep your eyes should feel rested and NOT be red or irritated?
One of the most common causes for red dry eyes in the morning is nocturnal lagophthalmous (NL). With NL, the lids do not close all the way while sleeping, and thus a small white part of the eye may be visible and exposed to the air.
I personally deal with this issue. My wife once took a picture of me sleeping on my back, and you could clearly see about ⅓ of the whites of my eye. Just think: If you’re sleeping with a ceiling fan or heater going in your room, that air is blowing across an exposed eye all night! The result is red irritated eyes in the morning.
So what to do about it? There are many products available to create a chamber of sorts around the eye to prevent evaporation or buffering of the ocular surface. Moisture chamber goggles, appropriately named, is one such product that when used, created a protective barrier around the eyes. Lubricating ointment can be placed in the eye beforehand as well to create a second protective barrier.
A great option to try before spending money on a mask, and a great way to see if YOU have NL, is to use a piece of Glad Press and Seal wrap. Note this is not just any Glad wrap, as it MUST be the Press and Seal type. Wash your face before bed. The wrap will not stick to oily dirty skin. Cut out a square of the wrap and mold it to the contours of your face. One great option is to do just one eye at night. See how your eyes feel compared to one another in the morning. If the eye that was covered feels and looks better than the eye that was not covered, you very well may suffer from NL, and a more permanent mask may be a good solution for you!