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Exercise may help relieve dry eye symptoms, study finds

Regular exercise can be beneficial for consumers struggling with irritated, itchy eyes

Man with dry or itchy eyes
Photo (c) ProfessionalStudioImages - Getty Images
While recent studies have found that exercise may benefit everything from lifespan to brain function, a new study explored another benefit of regular physical activity. According to researchers from the University of Waterloo, exercise may also help consumers who struggle with dry, itchy eyes.   

“With so much of our activity tied to screen usage, dry eye symptoms are becoming increasingly common,” said researcher Heinz Otchere. “Instead of having to use eye drops or other alternative treatments, our study aimed to determine if remaining physically active can be an effective preventative measure against dryness.” 

Relieving dry, itchy issues

For the study, the researchers divided 52 participants into athletes and nonathletes. Participants in the athlete group exercised five times per week; nonathletes were required to exercise just once per week. The participants underwent eye exams both before and after each exercise session. 

The researchers explained that consumers are most likely to experience dry and itchy eyes when their tear film isn’t protecting the eye as it should. The tear film is a thin protective layer that’s made up of oil, water, and mucin, and it ensures that the eye remains healthy. However, if any component of the tear film is compromised, it can cause irritation, dryness, and itchiness. In this study, the team wanted to observe any changes to the tear film before or after exercise. 

Their findings showed that physical activity improved the participants' tear film stability and overall tear quality. Because the participants in the athlete group were exercising more frequently, they experienced more consistent and significant eye health benefits. However, any level of physical activity proved to be beneficial in relieving dry eye discomfort. 

“It can be challenging for people to regularly exercise when the demand is there to work increasingly longer hours in front of screens,” Otchere said. “However, our findings show physical activity can be really important for not just our overall well-being, but for ocular health too.” 

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