Dry eyes: why are my eyes always irritated?

I had a female client who was over 60 years old.  She had suffered dry and uncomfortable eyes for a few months.  She had her eyes checked but nothing of note was revealed, so she was given eye drops to provide relief of her symptoms.  After I gave her a check-up, I told her she had an upset Liver with Liver Heat.  I gave her a few weeks of treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbal tablets and her symptoms disappeared and she no longer needed to use the eye drops.


This case gives you an idea of the importance of finding out the cause of the symptoms.

1. Symptoms of Dry Eyes

Many people experience the feeling of dryness in the eyes and in more serious cases it feels as though there is sand in the eyes causing constant irritation.  Some of them can also have more or less of the following symptoms: red eyes, burning sensation in the eyes,  tired eyes, itchy eyes, watering in the eyes or mild pain in the eyes.


2. What Organs are Associated With the Eyes

Chinese Medicine considers that physically and functionally the eyes are associated with the following Organs and Channels:

a) the Liver opens to the eyes, which means that the Liver sends circulation to support eye function, particularly for the iris;

b) Kidney Essence supports the pupil of the eye;

c) the Lung is associated with the white part of the eye (the sclera);

d) the inner and outer canthus of the eye is associated with the Heart;

e) the eyelid is associated with the Spleen.

In the clinic, traditional diagnosis often uses the eye symptoms to indicate certain internal organ disorder (which is the cause of the eye problem).

3. Causes of Dry Eyes

In my clinical experience the following causes of dry eyes are the most common:

i) Liver Heat

As we mentioned above, the Liver sends circulation to the eyes, however if there is too much Heat stuck in the Liver then the Heat will be sent up to the eyes as well.  This will cause the body to have dry eyes as well as other symptoms such as burning sensation and red eyes, mild pain, red face, the body feels hot, emotional, insomnia, bloating and sluggish bowel movement with very smelly wind, or dizziness.  These people usually don’t like bright lights or being in front of the computer for too long.

In certain cases, some people also combine the following diseases: hyperactive thyroid, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Liver dysfunction.

For this type of dry eyes, we suggest that you need to clear the Liver Heat and this will provide great relief.

ii) Kidney & Liver Yin Weakness

Chinese Medicine consider that Kidney and Liver Yin provide moisture to the eyes to balance the eye function.  Therefore, Kidney and Liver Yin weakness will cause eye dryness as well.  The body will also experience the following symptoms: tired eyes, blurry eyes, tired body, dry skin, lower back and knee ache, frequent urination or thirsty during the night, poor memory, dry stool or hot flushes.

For these types of dry eyes, we suggest a treatment to support Kidney and Liver Yin.

iii) Exterior Wind

In my clinical experience, this cause is very common in Perth, especially in the Spring time because it is very windy.  The Wind will attack the Urinary Bladder Channel which is part of the branch going to the eyes.  These people may also experience the following symptoms: itchy eyes, red eyes, tears or headache.  These people also usually have a lowered immune system, very easily affected by allergies such as hay fever or skin allergies.

For this type of dry eyes, we always pay more attention to releasing the Wind and building up the body’s immune system.


3. Diet and Lifestyle to Improve your Dry Eyes

Chinese Medicine always considers certain foods and lifestyle can make a disease get worse or get better.  The following suggestion can help you to avoid dry eyes or reduce the symptoms:

i) Avoid eating hot & spicy food, deep-fried food, shell-fish, especially while you have serious symptoms.  If you want to know more detail please check my diet therapy articles.

ii) Eat more of the following foods to help the Liver: celery, carrots, lemon, green tea, peppermint tea, banana, orange, coriander.  Check my diet therapy articles for more information.

iii) Everyday take some time to look at objects of the colour green (ie. trees and grass).  In Chinese Medicine (5 elements), Green is associated with the Liver and can therefore benefit the eyes.

iv) Avoid the Wind when you do outdoor exercise.

v) Avoid strong and fast exercise – I suggest exercise with a slow or mid level of speed.  I recommend walking, meditation, yoga, swimming, tai chi, or slow riding.

vi) Everyday make sure you’re happy and less stressed. Listen to more soft music and funny entertainment.

If you cannot relieve the symptoms as mentioned above, I suggest you visit your experienced Chinese practitioner to get a good diagnosis and suitable treatment.


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