Dry Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention
Tears are an important element of the human eyes. When we cry or even when we laugh so much, our eyes get teary. Do you know how important your eye tears are? They are so important that they help protect your eyes from various chronic diseases, including dry eyes. Yes, tears supply essential lubrication and moisture to keep your eyes wet and maintain the health of the surface of your eyes. Tears also keep the eye surfaces clear and smooth and provide clear vision, wash away external unwanted elements, reduce eye infection risks, and eventually keep eyes healthy.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye syndrome is a common eye disease that occurs when a person does not have adequate tears, and tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication to lubricate and nourish the eyes. Particularly older adults get affected by this chronic problem.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Dry eyes may develop for many reasons, including:
1. Lack of balance in your tear-flow system
Human tears are a mix of water, oil, mucus, and antibodies, and special proteins. All these tear ingredients come from several glands in and around the eyelids. Those glands produce tears. When we blink, tears spread across the cornea.
Our excessive tears flow into small drain channels in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain into the back of the nose. Your eyes do not get dry as long as your tear production and tear drainage are balanced.
Dry eyes may occur if the production of tears and drainage are not in balance. If the production of normal tears decreases, dry eyes symptoms also can develop.
2. Age & insufficient amount of tears
The main reason for dry eye syndrome is an insufficient amount of tears, i.e. chronic lubrication and moisture or poor-quality tears on the surface of the eye. Generally, tear production reduces with age. Most of the people over 65 years experience dry eye symptoms.
3. Poor quality tears
As mentioned earlier, oil, water, mucus, and special proteins make tears. Each component does a different job. Water is needed in producing moisture, oils produce lubrication which prevents evaporation of the moisture layer. The mucus layer propagates the tears evenly on the eye surface. The absence of any of these components may produce poor-quality tears, resulting in developing dry eye symptoms.
Due to hormonal changes, use of oral contraceptives, and menopause, women experience dry eye symptoms more than men.
5. Medication & medical conditions
Production of tears also may get reduced by various medical conditions or certain medication side effects. Certain medicines like blood pressure medications, antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, can reduce tear production. Moreover, people who have diabetes, thyroid problems, rheumatoid arthritis, are more likely to develop dry eye symptoms.
6. Environmental condition
Environmental conditions and climates are also responsible for the reduction of tear volume. Dry climates, wind, smoke can increase the evaporation of tears. If tears evaporate too quickly from the eyes, dry eyes symptoms may develop.
7. Optometry surgery
Any optometry surgery like LASIK can reduce tear production too, which leads to developing dry eye symptoms.
8. Other Causes
Using contact lenses for many years and staring at the computer screen for a long time could potentially lead to dry eyes.
Dry Eyes Symptoms
If tears do not provide adequate moisture, you may feel gritty, irritated, itching eye, you may also feel like there’s something in your eye. Dry eye symptoms include:
· Eye redness
· Watery eyes
· Stinging, scratching or burning sensations in the eye
· Stringy mucus in or around or near the eye
· Blurry vision or eye fatigue
· Light sensitivity
· Having difficulty with night vision
· Heavy eyes or sore eyes
· Dry sensation
Dry Eyes Diagnosis
Do I have dry eye syndrome? If I have, when to see a doctor?
Performing dry eye tests is the only way to know if you have dry eye syndrome or not. However, if you have the above mentioned dry eye signs and symptoms, you should see an eye doctor ASAP.
Dry eyes can be diagnosed with a comprehensive eye examination. The examination includes:
· Patient history to determine the patient's symptoms
· Lid structure and blink dynamics test
· Bright light sensitivity and magnification test to evaluate the eyelids and cornea
· Measurement of the quantity and quality of tears
Take dry eye tests, your doctor will help you to determine the presence and severity of dry eye syndrome and find the best type of dry eye treatment to keep your eye healthy and clear.
Dry Eyes Treatment
To minimize eye dryness and discomfort, prescribed dry eye treatment can be helpful to keep your eyes healthy and prevent vision loss. Dry eyes treatment includes:
1. Adding artificial tears: The first approach to treat dry eyes is adding over-the-counter artificial tears. Preservative-free, artificial tears can be used to supplement natural tear production as needed.
2. Using dry eye drops: Prescribed dry eye drops are helpful to increase tear production in the eye. There are some good eye drops for dry eyes available. Your optometry doctor will prescribe the best one for you.
3. Cleaning and massaging eyelids: Recommended eye drops, warm compresses and lid massages, eyelid cleaners are also helpful to decrease inflammation around the surface of the eyes.
4. Conserving tears and Surgery: Conserving natural tears in the eyes longer is helpful to reduce the dry eyes symptoms. It is possible to keep both natural and artificial tears in the eye longer by blocking tear ducts. Silicone plugs can be used to deliberately block the ducts and can also be removed when needed. Eyelid problems like incomplete blink and tear ducts can also be permanently closed by surgery.
Dry Eyes Prevention
If you are experiencing dry eyes, the primary way to prevent this eye problem is to find out the main causes of your symptoms:
· Try to stay in a humid environment as much as possible. During the winter season, use a humidifier to add moisture to the dry indoor environment.
· Blink regularly when reading or staring at the TV or computer screen.
· Use sunglasses in the outdoor environment. Sunglasses work as a safety shield to block drying winds, air, and the sun's UV rays.
· Use nutritional dietary supplements that contain fatty acids and supplementary protein. Your doctor knows about it.
· Avoid becoming dehydrated, drink water frequently.
· Do not blow air directly in your eyes.
· Take breaks during long tasks.
· Avoid using computers for a longer time.
· Avoid smoking and do not drink too much alcohol.
· Avoid staying too long in a heated environment or air-conditioned rooms.