Dehydration is a potentially serious health problem that goes far beyond feeling thirsty on a hot summer day. Though most people are familiar with some of the more common symptoms of dehydration, including dry mouth, headaches, and muscle cramps, the signs of severe or chronic dehydration on the eyes are less well understood. Here is a brief overview of how hydration can affect the health of our eyes, and what we can do about it.
How Hydration Impacts Our Eyes
When we are not getting enough water to drink, everything dries out, from our internal organs outward to our hair and skin. Our vulnerable eyes are no exception; they need water to function correctly.
Dry eyes not only feel uncomfortable or scratchy, but they are no longer as adept at maintaining a protective barrier against dust, allergens, or irritants. This can create a vicious cycle of eye discomfort and can leave us more prone to eye infections. Dry eyes are more sensitive to light, and they are more prone to chronic eye fatigue and blurred vision. Chronic dehydration can permanently damage eye functioning, as the weakened system struggles to cope without enough moisture.
Though the appearance of sunken eyes is, especially in adults, often a cosmetic concern and can be a normal part of the aging process, chronically or prematurely sunken eyes can be an important warning sign that serious dehydration has occurred.
How to Ensure Hydration for Healthy Eyes
We become dehydrated when we lose more fluids than we take in, and our bodies no longer have enough water to function properly. Staying hydrated can be a challenge, at any time of the year. Some common causes of dehydration include:
- exposure to heat, especially for those who work outdoors
- certain medications
- strenuous exercise
- smaller reserves of water in older adults
- not remembering to drink enough water
Though there is no substitute for conscientiously drinking about 6 to 8 glasses of water per day based on your individual needs, incorporating hydrating foods and electrolyte-rich beverages into our diets can help to keep us hydrated.
To learn more about hydration for healthy eyes, speak with your general healthcare and eye care professionals. Keep your eyes healthy with regular eye exams, and contact one of our Michigan Eye Institute offices if you are experiencing dry eyes or other issues with your vision.