Dry Eyes - Causes and Treatments
Did you know that about 40% of adults suffer from varying degrees of dry eye syndrome? Did you know that women are more likely to experience dry eye symptoms? Did you know that dry eyes are uncomfortable but totally preventable?
In today’s world, we are living in environments that demand our use of technological devices for long periods of time, subject us to polluted air and tend to keep us awake hours into the night.
Unfortunately, all of these habits are harmful to our eyes and can result in irritating dry eye conditions.
Eye strain, air pollutants and not getting enough sleep can lead to what doctors refer to as “dry eye syndrome”, which is defined as a lack of tears or poor quality of tears, which can in turn lead to a variety of uncomfortable eye symptoms.
Dry Eye Symptoms
Some of the most common dry eye symptoms are as follows:
- Scratchy sensation
- Contact lens discomfort
- Excessive tearing
- Tired eyes
- Sensitivity to light
If you believe you are suffering from a degree of symptoms, you should consider a few of the following causes of dry eyes.
Some dry eye symptoms can be easily treated with small alterations to daily habits, such as a change of diet or increase in water intake.
However, some causes may be more serious and you should consider seeing your ophthalmologist for a professional diagnosis.
Causes of Dry Eyes
Age (50+) – As a natural part of the aging process, at a certain age your eyelids will slow their tear production to help lubricate the eyes.
Adults aged fifty and over tend to experience dry eyes more often.
Allergies – Is it that time of the year again?
Seasonal allergies may be the cause of your dry eyes. Try out some allergy medications to ease your symptoms and always keep some eye drops handy.
Blepharitis – If your conditions are a bit more serious and you think they may be the result of an infection, you may want to talk to your doctor about the lid disease, Blepharitis.
It is the most common cause of dry eyes and is a dysfunction of the eyelid’s oil glands which results in eyelid inflammation and discomfort.
City Dwellers – People living in cities are more likely to develop dry eye symptoms because of the denser quantities of air pollutants in the air.
Contact Lenses – Contacts are perfectly healthy for the eyes, but if you are careless with your contacts and tend to wear dirty lenses, are wearing incorrectly prescribed contacts or are wearing them longer than they were intended for, they could be the cause of your dry eyes.
Sleeping in contacts that are not suitable for overnight use can cause eye discomfort and sometimes infections.
Daily habits and work environment – If you are working long hours or looking at computers for long periods of time, you are straining your eyes a great deal. Extra strain = no natural tear gain!
Excessive heat or A/C – Air that is being pumped into your eyes is a natural cause of dry eyes. Be aware of your surroundings and adjust accordingly.
Eye makeup – For women this is a very common cause for eye discomfort. Try to reduce the amount you are wearing, or at least wear eye makeup that is liquid-based, not powder-based, so it won’t fall into your eyes and cause irritation.
Medications – Certain medications can cause uncomfortable dry eye symptoms. If this is the case, you should talk with your doctor about other options available.
Menstrual Cycle, Menopause & Pregnancy – If you are experiencing any of these body changes, you should be aware that a woman’s hormonal changes can lead to dry eye symptoms.
If you are using contraceptives, this may also be a cause of eye irritation.
Poor blink rate or incomplete blinking – If you know you are a poor blinker, then your eyes are really hurting for it.
This may take some practice but try to blink more regularly, especially if you are working long hours using computers or reading documents.
Blinking keeps the eyes properly lubricated and will help with any dry eye symptoms.
Smoking – People who smoke are twice as likely to develop dry eye symptoms.
Tobacco smoke is a serious eye irritant, so breaking this habit could significantly help with your dry eyes, along with other health benefits.
Dry eyes are awful and the causes are many, but don’t worry! There are many ways to help cope with these nasty symptoms.
Dry Eye Treatment
- Take periodic breaks from your computer and technology use
- Use a humidifier at work and at home
- Wear glasses on windy days to protect your eyes
- Wear polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV radiation
- Optimize your contact lens wearing habits
- Eat a well-balanced diet of omega 3’s and a lot of Vitamin-A rich foods
- Increase daily water intake and reduce coffee drinking
- Quit smoking and avoid being around it
- Practice blinking more often
- Lubricated eye drops
- Medicated eye drops
Note: If you are experiencing any of these symptoms (or multiple ones) that you consider to be serious, you should consult an eye care expert immediately. If you prolong diagnosis, dry eye syndrome can lead to infection or even permanent corneal scarring.