Dry Eyes

Overview           

When your tears are unable to adequately lubricate your eyes you may develop dry eyes which is a common system. It can occur if you produce poor-quality tears or if you don’t produce enough tears.

If your eyes are dry they may sting or burn, and you may experience it if you’re in an airplane, while riding a bike, after staring at a computer screen for hours, or in an air-conditioned room.

Dry eye treatments may make your more comfortable. They can include eyedrops or lifestyle changes. To control dry eyes properly you’ll probably need to take these measures indefinitely.

Signs and Symptoms

Usually the symptoms will affect both eyes. These may include: eye redness, a stinging, scratching, or burning sensation in your eyes, sensitivity to light, stringy mucus in or around your eyes, difficulty with night time driving, watery eyes, the sensation of having something in your eyes, difficulty wearing contact lenses, eye fatigue, or blurred vision.

Your tears are made up of mucus, fatty oils, and water and are a complex mixture. If your tears are inadequate or you don’t produce enough of them you may have dry eyes. Tears help protect your eyes from infection and make your eyes smooth and clear.

One reason for dry eyes is decreased tear production. Common causes include: medical conditions (diabetes, lupus, arthritis, thyroid disorders, Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, vitamin A deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis), aging, some medications (decongestants, antihistamines, medications for acne, birth control, high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease, antidepressants, and hormone replacement therapy).

Diagnosis and Treatment

Procedures and tests that are used to determine the cause of your dry eyes includes: measuring the volume of your tears, determining the quality of your tears, and a comprehensive eye exam.

If you have dry eyes consider the situations that aggravate your symptoms and find ways to avoid those situations. For example: add moisture to the air (with a humidifier), protective eyewear, position your screen below eye level (to avoid having to open your eyes too wide to look at your screen), take eye breaks during long tasks, avoid blowing air into your eyes, use artificial tears regularly, and stop smoking.

Some risk factors that can contribute to whether you’ll experience dry eyes include: biological sex, being over 50, wearing contact lenses, and eating a diet low in either vitamin A or omega-3 fatty acids.

Sometimes your doctor will prescribe medications to treat dry eyes. These include: eye drops to reduce cornea inflammation, drugs to control eyelid inflammation, tear-stimulating medications, eye inserts that work like fake tears, or eye drops made from your own blood.

You can also ask your doctor about using special contact lenses designed for individuals with dry eyes, light therapy and eyelid massage, unblocking oil glands, or a procedure that will close your tear ducts.