Why do our bodies need water?
We’ve all heard that we should be drinking 2 litres of water a day to stay hydrated, keep our organs healthy, our body temperature regulated, and our energy levels high. Water is what enables our bodies to function, flushing out waste products and delivering oxygen throughout the body. The definition of dehydration is when the body loses more water than it takes in. We lose liquids through urinating, sweating, bowel movements, and even as vapour when breathing out. We can only, however, hydrate ourselves in one way and that is by drinking enough water – or another beverage of your choice – each day.
If you are dehydrated, all of your organs suffer – including your eyes. Symptoms of dehydration include a headache and light-headedness, while the body also attempts to restrict its fluid output. This includes reduced urination, a dry mouth and, crucially, dry eyes. This is because the body stops producing enough tears to lubricate the eyes properly, leading to Dry Eye Syndrome and eye strain. We’ve written previously about the issues posed by Dry Eye Disease and how to combat the symptoms and negative effects of the condition.
How do we get so dehydrated?
We’ve briefly touched on ways in which our bodies can lose water, mainly in the form of urination and sweating, but also from breathing out over the course of the day. A number of dietary factors also come into play when talking about why we get so dehydrated. High consumption of caffeine, salty foods, and alcohol all contribute to dehydration. The foods we eat are particularly important in promoting good eye health, with particular vitamins and antioxidants benefiting different aspects of our vision. Alcohol and caffeine, however, are both diuretics, increasing your urine output and therefore leaving you more dehydrated than if you had consumed water.
Foods high in salt and sodium can also cause dehydration. We need some salt in our diets to regulate blood flow, and to help with connections between nerves and muscle fibres. When you consume too much salt, however, you feel thirsty as the body tries to battle the sodium-water imbalance. Your body draws water out of other cells, resulting in dehydration and its symptoms with which we are all familiar. Drinking water consistently throughout the day, reducing your salt and sodium intake, and monitoring your alcohol consumption should help you to stay hydrated, keep your body healthy, and eyes and other organs functioning well.
What are the symptoms of dry eyes?
Dry eyes can occur for a number of reasons, but today we’re talking about when they occur as a direct result of dehydration. You might experience a burning or stinging sensation in your eyes, blurry vision, or a scratchy feeling, all of which suggest that there isn’t enough moisture in your eyes. If your eyes are chronically dry, ironically, your body will sometimes try to compensate by producing extra tears, leaving you with streaming eyes. The tears produced in this case aren’t always made up of the right components, meaning that they don’t hydrate the eyes properly, and therefore don’t correct the underlying problem. If your dry eye condition becomes severe, the friction from lack of moisture may even cause corneal ulcers, a sight threatening condition.
If you find yourself with dry eyes, try upping your water intake before anything else. You should also be mindful of how much you blink: in an age where the average adult’s screen time is 8 hours and 41 minutes per day, and screen use has been found to reduce the amount we blink, we should make the effort to close our eyes a little bit more. Each time we blink, we moisten our eyes with tears, banishing some of the classic, uncomfortable dry eye symptoms. You can also use artificial tears or try our Dry Eye Management plans to help with any discomfort.
Effects of contact lenses
People who wear contact lenses are likely to experience dehydration in their eyes more than the average person. This is because the contacts “rely on the natural moisture of your eyes” to function properly and if your body is dehydrated, meaning that your tear ducts are also dehydrated, the eye isn’t moist enough for the contact to do its job. They will dry out over the course of the day, causing discomfort and exacerbating any dry eye symptoms you’re already experiencing, like redness, blurry vision and a gritty feeling.
This is especially dangerous when you consider that your eyes need tears and moisture to wash away debris and reduce your infection risk. With contacts, not only can they increase the eye’s overall dryness, but the subsequent lack of lubrication can also lead to eye strain. Increasing your water intake is one way to reduce eyestrain, as is avoiding excessive screen use, as we previously touched on. Contact lenses generally just heighten the issues which come with dehydration and dry eyes, so monitoring your eyes’ moisture levels is vital in maintaining good eye health.