“Dry eye is a condition in which there are insufficient tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or have a poor quality of tears. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults.
With each blink of the eyelids, tears are spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye, and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts, in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain in the back of the nose.
Dry eyes can result from an improper balance of tear production and drainage.
The most common form of dry eyes is due to an inadequate amount of the water layer of tears. This condition, called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is also referred to as dry eye syndrome.
People with dry eyes may experience symptoms of irritated, gritty, scratchy, or burning eyes, a feeling of something in their eyes, excess watering, and blurred vision. Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
The development of dry eyes can have many causes. They include:
- Age – dry eye is a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
- Gender – women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
- Medications – certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes.
- Medical conditions – persons with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids, inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.
- Environmental conditions – exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
Self Care Tips:
Steps you can take to reduce symptoms of dry eyes include:
- Remembering to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
- Increasing the level of humidity in the air at work and at home.
- Wearing sunglasses outdoors, particularly those with wrap around frame design, to reduce exposure to drying winds and sun.
- Using nutritional supplements containing essential fatty acids may help decrease dry eye symptoms in some people. Ask your optometrist if the use of dietary supplements could be of help for your dry eye problems.
- Avoiding becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses) each day. “