Dry Eyes: Causes, Treatments, and Keeping Your Vision Clear

Team Health Cages

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Close-up of an eye with dry, flaky skin on the eyelids and a single tear rolling down the cheek.

Introduction:

Dry eyes occur when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. This can lead to discomfort, irritation, and sometimes even vision problems. There are a few common causes, such as aging, certain medications, environmental factors like dry air or wind, and prolonged screen time, which can reduce the blink rate and lead to the evaporation of tears. 

Sometimes underlying health conditions like blepharitis, Sjögren’s syndrome, or hormonal changes can also contribute to dry eyes. Treatment often involves using artificial tears or lubricating eye drops, managing underlying conditions if present, and making lifestyle changes like using a humidifier, taking breaks during prolonged screen use, and staying hydrated. If dry eye symptoms persist or worsen, it’s important to see an eye doctor for evaluation and treatment. 

This topic we’ll discuss in this blog:

What is dry eye?

Dry eye syndrome, also known simply as dry eye, is a condition where your eyes don’t produce enough quality tears to lubricate the eye surface adequately or when tears evaporate too quickly. Tears are essential for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. When there’s an imbalance in tear production, it can lead to discomfort, irritation, and sometimes even damage to the surface of the eye.

Common symptoms of dry eye 

  • Stinging or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Irritation or scratchiness
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Blurred vision
  • Pink Eye
  • Excessive tearing (paradoxically, the eyes may produce more tears as a response to dryness)

Several factors can contribute to dry eye, including aging, certain medical conditions (such as autoimmune diseases), medications, environmental factors (like dry air or wind), and prolonged screen time.

Treatment for dry eye typically involves using artificial tear drops to lubricate the eyes, avoiding environmental triggers when possible, and in some cases, prescription medications or procedures may be recommended to address underlying causes or provide more long-term relief.

Causes of dry eye?

A variety of factors can cause dry eye, both environmental and medical. Here are some common causes:

Aging

As people get older, tear production tends to decrease, leading to a higher likelihood of experiencing dry eye symptoms.

Medications

Certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, and hormonal therapies, can reduce tear production as a side effect.

Medical conditions

Various medical conditions can contribute to dry eye, including autoimmune diseases like Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and allergic conjunctivitis.

Environmental factors

Dry and windy climates, as well as indoor environments with low humidity (such as air-conditioned or heated spaces), can accelerate tear evaporation and contribute to dry eye symptoms.

Extended screen time

Staring at screens for prolonged periods without blinking enough can lead to dry eye symptoms due to reduced blink rate and increased tear evaporation.

Person applying artificial tears eye drops to their eyes.

Contact lens wear

Contact lenses can exacerbate dry eye symptoms, particularly if they are worn for extended periods or if they don’t fit properly.

Eyelid problems

Conditions that affect the eyelids, such as blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelid margins) or meibomian gland dysfunction (affecting the glands that produce the oily part of tears), can interfere with the normal functioning of tears and contribute to dry eye.

Hormonal changes

Hormonal fluctuations, such as those occurring during pregnancy, menopause, or while taking birth control pills, can affect tear production and quality.

Laser eye surgery

Procedures like LASIK can temporarily disrupt the nerves responsible for stimulating tear production, leading to dry eye symptoms that usually resolve over time.

Other factors

Smoking, certain nutritional deficiencies (such as omega-3 fatty acids), and prolonged use of eye makeup or certain eye care products can also contribute to dry eye symptoms.

Understanding the underlying cause of dry eye is crucial for determining the most appropriate treatment approach and managing symptoms effectively.

When to see the doctor

If you’re experiencing persistent or severe dry eye symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor or eye care professional for evaluation and management. This is especially true if your symptoms interfere with daily activities or if you notice changes in your vision.

Severe symptoms, such as eye pain or sensitivity to light, should prompt immediate medical attention to rule out any serious conditions. Additionally, if you have underlying medical conditions or have undergone recent eye surgery, it’s crucial to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional for appropriate management strategies. Early detection and treatment of dry eye can help alleviate discomfort and prevent potential complications, ensuring better eye health and overall well-being.

Treatment for dry eye?

Treatment for dry eye aims to alleviate symptoms, improve tear production and quality, and protect the ocular surface. Here are some common treatment options:

Artificial tears

Over-the-counter artificial tear drops or lubricating eye gels can help relieve dryness and provide temporary relief from symptoms. These can be used as needed throughout the day.

Prescription eye drops

In some cases, your doctor may prescribe medicated eye drops to reduce inflammation, increase tear production, or improve tear quality. These may include cyclosporine (Restasis) or lifitegrast (Xiidra).

Eyelid hygiene

Cleaning the eyelids regularly can help manage conditions like blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction, which can contribute to dry eye. Warm compresses and eyelid scrubs are commonly recommended.

Punctal plugs

Tiny silicone or gel plugs can be inserted into the tear ducts to block drainage, helping to keep tears on the eye surface longer and increasing moisture.

Nutritional supplements

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, may help improve tear quality and reduce inflammation in some individuals with dry eyes.

Environmental modifications

Making changes to your environment, such as using a humidifier to add moisture to the air, wearing wrap-around glasses outdoors to protect against wind and dust, or taking regular breaks from screen time, can help reduce dry eye symptoms.

Prescription medications

In cases where underlying conditions contribute to dry eye, such as autoimmune diseases or hormonal imbalances, treating the underlying condition may help alleviate dry eye symptoms.

Lifestyle modifications

Simple changes like staying hydrated, avoiding smoke and air pollutants, and maintaining a healthy diet can help support overall eye health and reduce dry eye symptoms.

Specialty contact lenses

For individuals who wear contact lenses, switching to specialty lenses designed for dry eye or daily disposable lenses may help reduce discomfort.

In-office procedures

Procedures such as intense pulsed light (IPL) therapy or meibomian gland expression performed by an eye care professional can help improve meibomian gland function and reduce dry eye symptoms.

Treatment for dry eye is often personalized based on the severity of symptoms, underlying causes, and individual preferences. Working closely with your eye care provider to develop a treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and provides long-term relief is essential.

Faq’s 

Q1. What causes dry eyes?

A1. Dry eyes happen when your eyes don’t make enough tears. This can happen because of aging, especially in women after menopause.

Q2. Can dry eyes make it hard to see?

A2. Yes, dry eyes can make your vision blurry sometimes. It can also cause glare or haloes around lights, especially at night.

Q3. What’s a good natural way to make my eyes less dry?

A3. Using virgin coconut oil can help. It puts a protective layer over your tears, reducing how quickly they evaporate. Coconut oil also fights bacteria and inflammation.

Q4. How can I make my eyes more moist?

A4. Eating foods with omega-3 fats like flaxseed, salmon, and sardines can help. You can also try using eye drops made with castor oil, which can reduce tear evaporation.

Q5. Is Vaseline helpful for dry eyes?

A5. Yes, some doctors suggest using Vaseline for certain dry eye problems. It can soothe dry and irritated eyelids. It also helps keep wounds moist, which can prevent scarring.

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