Jennifer Aniston’s wellness habits are no secret.
The actress eats a healthy diet, drinks a lot of water, runs, practices yoga and barre, and hits up spin class on the reg. She’s faithful to daily SPF. She tries to sleep eight hours each night. We could all benefit from taking a page out of her book.
This is usually what she eats:
The Eyedrop Addict
But there was one thing (well, two, really) that Aniston wasn’t taking care of. After mentioning in an interview that she was a self-proclaimed eye drop addict, she was contacted by biopharmaceutical company Shire with the advice to get checked for dry eye (Shire sells medication for the condition). “I went to the doctor and found out, sure enough, that’s what I had,” she tells SELF. “I’d use eye drops three times an hour and didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t know that dry eye was a condition that could be diagnosed and remedied.”
The awareness of Chronic Dry Eye by Jennifer Aniston
Aniston, who has now teamed up with Shire to spread awareness about chronic dry eye, is not alone in her diagnosis. “Dry eyes are the number one reason patients visit an eye doctor in the U.S.,” Marguerite McDonald, M.D., clinical professor in the department of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells SELF. She adds that an estimated 30 million adults report symptoms consistent with dry eye, and about 16 million are diagnosed with the condition. The chronic problem happens either when the eyes do not produce tears properly, or when the tears are not of the correct consistency and evaporate too quickly, according to the National Eye Institute.
Everyone experiences the symptoms of dry eye differently, but McDonald says there are some hallmark signs of the condition: “Burning, itching, stinging, a gritty feeling, episodes of blurred vision that come and go quickly, redness, and watery eyes (as paradoxical as it may seem).” And all of these can make it difficult to accomplish daily activities. “It becomes harder to use a computer or to drive at night, slows down reading, and makes it hard to spend time in bright light or in cold or windy weather,” says McDonald.
Jen’s trouble with the Chronic Dry Eye problem
Aniston tells us that she used to have trouble seeing computer screens and reading TV scripts—something that’s obviously essential to her job. “It would be so hard to get through a day of work on set, I was constantly in between takes trying to use my eye drops,” she says. And don’t get her started about wind machines on photo shoots. So she just learned to deal with it, using eye drops as a crutch.
Though it can exist on its own, dry eye is oftentimes linked to another medical condition or medications. “Almost every medication to treat blood pressure, irregular heart beat, depression, and lower cholesterol is associated with dry eye,” McDonald says. Because of all the hormonal changes going on, dry eye is a well-known side effect of the stage leading up to menopause. Wearing contact lenses may increase your risk or just make preexisting dry eye worse. Dry eye often occurs concurrently with blepharitis, or rosacea of the eyelids. Inflammation is also a key factor. “When the surface of the eye is exposed to dry conditions or gets environmentally stressed, it initiates an inflammatory response,” McDonald explains. Over time, the inflammation just gets worse and worse and can perpetuate the problem. McDonald adds that thanks to our lifestyle habits—more screen time and more medications in particular—dry eye has become a bigger problem than ever.
Eye drops is not the solution
Using eye drops excessively isn’t the best remedy. “Redness relief” and “clear eyes” eye drops work by constricting blood vessels, which is effective in the short term, but over time can reduce blood flow to the eyes and create a dependence. You then need more drops to get the same relief. “Eye drops remedy it for a second, and then you need to try to find stronger ones, and stronger ones, and it’s just so bad for you,” Aniston says. “Over years of doing that, [my dry eye] has just gotten increasingly worse because it was having reverse effects.”
What to do when you suffer Chronic Dry Eye?
So what should you do if you suffer from chronic dry eye? McDonald says the best thing to do is tell your eye doctor what’s going on so he or she can rule out other conditions and diagnose you properly. If your dry eye is mild, the most common remedy is to use artificial tears—they hydrate the eyes and don’t contain ingredients that your eyes can become “addicted” to. Doctors also commonly suggest omega-3 supplements. If your condition is more severe, you may be given a prescription medication.
The Artificial Tears worked for Jen
Aniston tells SELF that artificial tears have done the trick for her. “You wean yourself off the evil eyedrops, and it’s such a relief.” When it comes to eye health in general, Aniston admits she was guilty of not giving it the same attention as other aspects of her health—but her diagnosis has changed that. “I always thought I was on top of my health needs!” she says. “But I didn’t really think about eye health, and as we get older it gets way worse, so it’s a good thing to add it to your list of healthy living boxes to check off now.”