Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a chronic condition that develops when your eyes do not produce and maintain enough tears to lubricate the eye’s surface, resulting in multiple symptoms that vary from person to person.
This issue can be due to reduced tear production or increased tear evaporation from a lack of lipids produced by oil glands in the eyelids. The effects can range from minor dryness and discomfort to pain, blurred vision, and frequent infections.
What are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?
Symptoms of dry eye syndrome can vary depending on the severity of the condition but can include:
- Dry, itchy eyes
- Burning or stinging
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Foreign body sensation
The primary function of tears is to maintain the health of the cornea of your eye by washing away foreign matter and ensuring that the surface of your eye remains moist, smooth, and clear. Tears also rinse away dust particles from your eyes and contain enzymes that protect your eyes from bacteria that can cause infections.
Dry eye is a condition that develops when the amount of tears produced is insufficient to maintain the moisture balance in your eye, resulting in scratchy eyes, a continuous feeling of dryness, stinging, and a sensation of a foreign body in your eye. Ironically, in an effort to fight off the condition, dry eyes can cause you to produce excessive tears, which is why some people experience watery eyes.
Common Causes of Dry Eye
Aging and Hormonal Changes
Dry eyes can develop naturally due to aging or hormonal changes, especially in women who are taking oral contraceptives, pregnant, or experiencing menopause.
Certain medications that reduce tear production, such as antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants, can lead to dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye is common in regions with dry, dusty, and windy climates. Environmental factors like home air conditioners or heating systems can contribute to drying out the eyes.
Excessive time spent staring at computer or television screens can lead to dry eyes due to reduced blinking while focusing on screens.
Individuals with diabetes, blepharitis, lupus, arthritis, and thyroid problems are more susceptible to developing DED.
Dry eyes can result from certain eye surgeries, including LASIK, and conditions in which the eyelids do not close properly.
Extended Contact Lens Use
Prolonged use of contact lenses can contribute to dry eye syndrome.
Tips for Preventing Dry Eyes
Identify and Eliminate Environmental Causes: If external factors contribute to your dry eyes, addressing these causes can often alleviate the issue.
Avoid Dry Environments: Steer clear of environments with low humidity levels that can exacerbate dry eyes.
Minimize Heat Exposure: Reduce exposure to hair dryers, heaters, and fans, especially when they blow air directly toward your eyes.
Stay Clear of Smoky Environments: Smoke-filled areas can worsen dry eye symptoms. Try to avoid such environments.
Protect Your Eyes: Wear wrap-around glasses or goggles in dusty or windy areas to shield your eyes from irritants.
Use a Humidifier: Adding a humidifier to indoor spaces can help maintain moisture levels in the air, benefiting your eyes.
Blink Purposefully: When using a computer or watching TV, make a conscious effort to blink regularly. Staring at screens tends to reduce the frequency of blinking.
Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes: Refrain from rubbing your eyes, as this action can further irritate them and worsen dryness.
Stay Hydrated: Drink at least 8 to 10 glasses of water daily to support overall hydration, which can positively impact your eyes’ comfort.