Dry eye syndrome is experienced due to the failure of tears/tear film to keep the eyes moist. It is characterised by dryness, itchiness, discomfort, pain, sensation, and visual disturbances.
Read more about dry eyes here.
Dr Chaya C, assistant professor from JSS Ayurvedic Medical College, Mysuru, says that in Ayurveda, the dry eye syndrome is known as shushka akshipaka.
She explains that this condition is caused due to impaired air (vata) and fire elements (pitta). The symptoms, as explained by ayurvedic experts, are difficulty in opening and closing eyelids, rough lids, blurred vision, burning sensation, pricking pain.
Dry eyes can be troublesome at times and can even interfere with a person’s personal and work life. Ravisimha G Rangaswamy, a 37-year-old software engineer who lives in Berlin, Germany, had dry eyes for six years. His work demanded constant screen time, which resulted in dry eyes. Eventually, it disturbed his work, and he tried various management methods from different doctors. However, nothing helped him in the long term.
He then thought about giving Ayurveda a try. When he visited his parents in Tumakuru, Karnataka, he was asked to consult a nearby ayurvedic hospital. His doctor advised him some eye therapies along with some medicines, which gave his eyes relief within a week. “Ever since, my son comes to India once every two years and gets his ayurvedic eye therapies done,” says his father, Rangaswamy.
Hariprasad Bhat from Mangaluru also shares a similar experience with Happiest Health. Bhat is 41 years old and works as an accountant. He first experienced symptoms of dry eyes four years ago.
He started using eye drops as advised by his ophthalmologist. However, it did not work in the long run and soon the discomfort irritated him, thus affecting his work life.
“I couldn’t sleep well due to extreme irritation while sleeping. I used to wake up in between but, was unable to open my eyes,” says Bhat.
“I went to almost every eye hospital in Udupi and Mangaluru, but there was no hope. Then my colleague guided me to the ayurvedic eye hospital where I got better management techniques for my problem,” he adds.
He had severe symptoms of dry eyes and was given relaxing eye therapies with some ghee-based oral medicines and eye drops. He felt better within a few days after which he continued his oral medicines.
Like Bhat and Ravisimha, there are many others who have seen improvement in their condition after receiving ayurvedic therapies. Ayurvedic experts say that the management is based on finding the cause and treating them from the root.
Ayurvedic practitioners believe in prevention as the primary strategy. The foremost advice any ayurvedic doctor would give is to abstain from what is causing and aggravating the condition. The physician after diagnosing the condition educates about the dos and don’ts of the condition.
Dr Ashwin Kumar Shastry, chief physician, Arogyaniketana Ayurveda Ashrama, Hariharapura, Chikkamagaluru, Karnataka, highlights that the treatment needs to be customised based on the person’s body type, causative factors and extent of symptoms.
Counteracting the causes
“Treating the cause is the primary strategy,” says Dr Shastry. Dry eyes can be the only symptom in some people, while for others it can be due to underlying systemic health issues such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, thyroid, inflammatory conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s condition and some skin conditions. Managing the cause leads to managing dry eyes, adds Dr Chaya.
Purificatory therapies (panchakarma):
Therapeutic purgation is advised for those with skin conditions and allergies. As a general measure, anyone with dry eyes can go for therapeutic purgation, says Dr Chaya.
Intranasal therapy (nasya) is another option provided by experts. This is generally used for health conditions involving the head and neck. The eyes and nostrils are connected through the nasolacrimal duct (the duct connecting tear gland and nostrils). Hence, the lacrimal gland (tear gland) can easily be stimulated by intranasal therapy, adds Dr Chaya.
Dr Chaya lists out some therapies that are prescribed by physicians for managing dry eyes. Oil well therapy, therapeutic oil dripping and eye packs are administered in the form of eye drops that easily cross the corneal layer. The physicians use ghee-based medicines as they provide nourishment and moisture to the eyes.
Oral medicines and diet
Medicated ghee helps in countering the impaired air element. According to Dr Shastry, eating right matters and can help manage different eye health conditions, including dry eye syndrome. There are some foods like Indian gooseberry, pomegranate, prunes, almonds, eggs and olive oils which are beneficial for eye health (chakshushya) that help manage dry eyes. Including ghee, honey, milk, and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, dill leaves, and carrots in the diet can help ease the symptoms.
- Rest is important – Dr Shastry highlights the importance of adequate rest between work to keep our eyes healthy
- Frequent eye washing – Splashing cold water to help relieve eye strain and dry eyes
- Ball tossing exercise – Dr Chaya recommends tossing the ball exercise for better eyeball movements. During this exercise we can toss a tennis ball and watch it bouncing
- Palming – Placing the palms on the eyes gives a soothing effect
Read more about eye exercises to beat eye strain here
Reducing screentime – Dr Shastry says that though it has become difficult to stay away from gadgets due to work or for entertainment, we can find ways to reduce screentime.
Spending time in nature
Dr Shastry recommends spending time in nature. “I often recommend early morning walks to people with dry eye syndrome as the walks sooth the eyes and give a relaxing effect.”
Read more on everything you need to know about your eye health here
Some small-scale studies confirm the effectiveness of ayurvedic management of dry eyes. In a study conducted by researchers from N K Jabsetty Ayurvedic Medical College, Bidar, it has been found that ayurvedic therapies (oil well therapy) are beneficial for people with dry eyes. Though the study included a small sample size, the results were encouraging and offers scope for further evaluation on large sample size. Another study done by researchers of Seth Govindji Raoji Ayurveda College, Solapur, Maharashtra, found similar results. Although there is limited research on managing eye health conditions through Ayurveda, beneficiaries are growing in number.