Dry Eyes

What are Dry Eyes?

Chronic dry eye is a common condition that affects millions of Americans every year. It happens when a person’s tear glands and ducts are unable to produce sufficient moisture to maintain comfort within the eye. It may be due to inadequate tear production or tears that are not of the proper quality that evaporate too quickly.

Dry eyes can be chronic or temporary. Numerous factors can contribute to the condition, such as certain medications, diseases in the eye glands, pregnancy, refractive eye surgery, chemical or thermal burns, eye allergies, extended computer use, dry environments, long term use of contact lenses, or immune system disorders. Although dry eyes can affect anyone, it tends to show up more often in older adults and women who are post-menopausal.

What are the Symptoms of Dry Eyes?

Patients with this condition will experience a variety of symptoms in the eyes, including:

  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Inflammation
  • Discomfort
  • Irritation
  • Stinging
  • Burning
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sandy or gritty feeling
  • Stringy discharge
  • Heavy eyelids
  • Inability to cry
  • Eye fatigue
  • Pain
  • Ulcers
  • Scars on the cornea
  • Changes in vision
  • Vision impairment

It is important to note that while some people will experience changes in vision with dry eyes, it is very rare for a person to permanently lose all sight. Vision changes are often temporary and clear up once the condition is treated. However, advanced cases can cause damage to the eye surface, which can permanently impair vision.

Dry Eyes Causes

Dry eyes are a common disorder caused by a lack moisture in the form of adequate tears. Tears are not just water but a complex mixture of fatty oils, fluids, and mucus that provide optimal lubrication. Tears make your eyes smooth and clear, and protect them from infection. On occasion, dry eyes are caused by a simple reduction in tears, in others, it is caused by an increase of tear evaporation or a bad mixture of tear composition. The medical name for decreased tear production is keratoconjunctivitis sicca.

Medical conditions like scleroderma, diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders Sjogren’s syndrome and vitamin A deficiency can all cause dry eyes. Also, medications like hormone replacement therapy, decongestants, antidepressants, antihistamines, and high blood pressure, birth control, acne, and Parkinson’s disease drugs can cause dry eyes. Those who undergo laser eye surgery can experience dry eyes temporarily. Also, damage to tear glands from inflammation or radiation causes dry eyes.

How are Dry Eyes Treated?

Management for dry eyes is largely dependent on how severe symptoms become.

Treatment includes

For some people, over-the-counter lubricating eye drops or artificial tears are sufficient for relieving the discomfort. Other cases will require prescription-strength steroid drops. Depending on circumstances, patients may need tear duct plugs, prescription glasses, nutritional supplements, intense pulsed light therapy, or immuno-suppressive drugs to treat the condition.

Dry Eyes Prevention

Part of preventing dry eyes means paying attention to the circumstances that trigger your dry eye symptoms. Once these triggers are identified find ways of avoiding those situations to prevent or forestall dry eyes symptoms.

For example:

  • Keep air from blowing into your eyes from direct hair dryers, air conditioners, car heaters, or fans.
  • Boost moisture in the air by using a humidifier in dry indoor atmospheres.
  • Try buying wraparound sunglasses or other kinds of protective eyewear. These safety lenses can be attached to eyeglasses blocking dry air and the wind.
  • Give your eyes breaks during long projects, like reading or writing for long periods of time, especially if they require visual concentration. Make sure to close and blink your eyes for time to time. Blinking repeatedly in short bursts helps to spread tears over your lenses.