25 Jun Dry eyes: causes, symptoms and treatments
For many people, dry eyes can be a small, temporary condition. However, if it occurs for a long time, it can become uncomfortable and prevent one from carrying out their daily tasks. In our simple guide today, we will be discussing the causes, symptoms, and the treatment options you can consider. But before that, let’s define what this eye condition is really about.
What is dry eyes?
According to National Eye Institute (NEI), dry eyes occur when there is insufficient production of tears or quality of tears fails to keep your eyes lubricated. There are millions of adults in the US that experience chronic dry eyes. NEI also reports that women are more likely to have dry eyes as compared to men.
What are the symptoms?
A person with dry eyes may experience a range of symptoms, including:
- A stinging or burning sensation
- Feeling like there is sand in the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Watery eyes
- Eye fatigue leading to blurred vision
- Eye redness
- Stringy mucus around the eyes
What are the causes?
Dry eyes can occur when there is an increase in tear evaporation, decrease in basal tear production, or imbalance in tear composition. Here are other causes of dry eye:
- Medication such as antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy that relieves menopause symptoms, decongestants, antihistamines, and medications for anxiety
- Rosacea (inflammation of skin) and blepharitis (eyelid inflammation) can disrupt the production of tears.
- Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menopause in women have been linked with dry eyes
- Dry, windy, or smoky environment increases tear evaporation
- Prolonged periods of watching on screens can encourage insufficient blinking
- Seasonal allergies
- Wearing contact lenses for a long time
When should you consult an eye doctor?
You need to see an eye doctor if you have had prolonged symptoms of dry eyes such as red, tired, irritated eyes. Your doctor will conduct tests or determine the cause of your dry eyes and recommend a treatment.
If you’re reliant on over-the-counter eye drops for your eyes to feel normal or comfortable, that’s a telltale sign you should see an eye doctor. There are so many wonderful treatment options that could treat the condition. Also, if you’re not able to tolerate your contact lenses, that’s definitely a sign of probable dry eyes. ♪ [music] ♪
What are the risk factors contributing to dry eyes?
Although age is one of the main risk factors of dry eyes, other risk factors include:
- Lengthy exposure to screen and video displays which causes a decrease in the frequency of blinking
- Prolonged use of contact lenses
- Various medications and supplements such as antihistamines and benzodiazepine
- Laser vision surgery
- Dry and warm climates
How to treat dry eyes?
There are various home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of dry eyes:
- Avoiding smoky places
- Keep your room temperature moderate
- Wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from hot air and wind
- Consciously blinking when watching TV or using a computer
- Using artificial tear or eye drops (not for a long time unless recommended)
- Using a piece of wet cotton wool to clean your eyelids
- Eating a well-balanced diet with vitamins and proteins
- Medications and in extreme cases, your doctor may recommend surgery
The term dry eye is probably used too often or in too general a way. It’s really a dysfunctional tear, meaning that the tear film of the eye is not functioning well. Now, that could be because of dryness, or a lack of enough tears. It could be because the tear film evaporates too quickly even though there are enough tears. So there are different subcategories under the umbrella term of dry eyes. How do you know you have dry eyes?
Well, there are many different symptoms that can be associated with dry eyes. The most common is probably burning. However, you can also have itchy eyes, which is often confused with allergies, but burning, blurry vision, unstable vision, working on the computer or trying to read a book and you feel like you have to blink to get that clarity of vision.
Also, red eyes and irritated eyes and just a kind of sandy feeling– these are all the most common and typical symptoms of dry eyes. The other telltale sign of dry eyes is if you can’t tolerate your contact lenses. If you used to wear your contact lenses all day long and were fine and now you have to take them out as soon as you get home, that may be a sign that you have dry eyes.
We know that dry eyes is a progressive condition, meaning that over time, it does get worse if it’s not caught early and treated early. So when I see a person who’s early in the course of their dry-eye condition, it’s great because I can offer a true treatment to their dry-eye condition. It’s later on in the disease that treatment becomes more difficult and more involved.
There are many treatments for dry eyes, but more importantly, treatments are most successful if they’re targeted to the condition that’s causing the dry eyes, and that’s our focus here. The treatment can be as simple as prescription eye drops, to a procedure such as punctal plugs where a microscopic plug is placed in the drainage system of the tear flow so that your tears last longer in your eye. The treatment needs to be targeted to the underlying condition and when it is, which is the way we approach our patients, the success rate of treatment is very high.
This article is not a substitute for a consultation with your surgeon. Before choosing to proceed with laser eye surgery your surgeon will have a detailed discussion with you about the right procedure and about the potential complications.
A unique mix of expertise, experience and international reputation, Dr Ron Binetter is the figure behind the Binetter Eye Centre. With more than two decades of hands-on experience in eye surgery, Dr Binetter is a specialist in cataract, lens implantation and laser eye surgery. Learn more about Dr Ron Binetter’s background and qualifications.