Tips for Dealing With Dryness in the Eyes, Nose, and Mouth
For some patients, dryness affects not just the skin, but also the eyes, nose, and mouth. Cracked, chapped lips are commonplace, as are bloody noses and bloodshot eyes. Each of these has simple ways of being addressed.
Managing dry eyes
Dry eyes are best dealt with by using simple tear-replacement eye drops. The less chemical additives in the eye drops, the better. While a simple saline wash works well for some, it might not be enough of a lubricant for everyone. Drops marketed as "natural tears," while not precisely natural, often do the job quite well. It is important to avoid eye drops that are made to relieve allergy symptoms or designed to "get the red out," since those contain medications that will actually dry out the eye. It is also important to ensure nothing touches the tip of the eye drop bottle. Eye drops are meant to be sterile and allowing anything to contact the dispensing tip might introduce bacteria into the solution. Eye drops have a short shelf-life for this reason and should be kept clean and replaced often.
Side effect: Dry nose
Like the eyes, it is easiest to lubricate the nose with some form of saline solution. There are various sprays available with a pH buffered formulation to prevent stinging the nasal passages. For exceptionally dry noses, many pharmacies stock a non-toxic gel that can be put in the nostril. But when putting anything inside the nose, it is important to follow the product directions; some products are meant to be kept to the outside of the nostril, some are fine for putting directly on the membranes inside the nose. It also might be a good idea to consider using a neti pot or other form of nasal irrigation, especially if the patient is experiencing dry and cracking mucous deeper into the sinus passages.
What about dry mouth?
For the mouth, various lip balms will help on the outside, but a specialized mouthwash might also be key. Mouthwashes with alcohol and harsh germicides should probably be avoided, and fortunately, there are products specifically designed for "dry mouth" that are soothing. Since a byproduct of a dry mouth is often a lack of beneficial enzymes from saliva, a patient might want to look for a mouthwash that includes enzymes. Rinsing several times a day with such a mouthwash will assist in maintaining good oral health. Other ways to keep the mouth feeling better include keeping some chewing gum or lozenges on hand, both of which will stimulate saliva production and also offer the feeling of temporary relief -- patients may want to try experimenting with gum sweetened with xylitol, a sugar alcohol that actually kills some of the bacteria known to cause cavities. And, of course, carrying a water bottle around is an essential component in fighting dryness throughout the body: hydration is important, and nothing relieves a dry mouth as quickly as swishing some water around.
Drinking water is important overall for relieving dryness throughout the body. Some cancer treatments cause mild dehydration through a combination of effects which might include more frequent urination or even diarrhea. When the body is attempting to purge itself of toxins, it needs to have additional fluids in order to clean out the system. Drinking several additional cups of water each day is a good way to start. And keeping solutions available for the eyes, nose, and mouth -- even if those are not currently sources of bother -- is always a smart way to be prepared.
Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.
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