Why Are My Eyes Dry?
Do you have irritated, dry, itchy, scratchy, burning eyes, redness, or a sandy, gritty feeling like something is in your eye? Do your eyes water all the time? Is your vision blurry? Do you have tired eyes or find that your contact lenses are uncomfortable the longer you wear them? You could have a chronic eye condition called Dry Eye Syndrome.
It’s estimated that 1 in 8 adults suffer from dry eye syndrome, which can range from mild to severe. Despite that it is a common eye problem, surprisingly many people are not aware of dry eye syndrome.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Your eyes use tears to lubricate the front surface and keep them comfortable, clean and clear. These tears are also designed to wash away particles of dust and bacteria that cause infections and eye damage. Dry eye syndrome occurs when your eyes lack the necessary lubrication on the front surface of the eye. This can be due to not enough tears being produced, the quality of the tears is poor or the tears just evaporate too quickly from the eye. This causes the common uncomfortable symptoms including:
- WATERY EYES* - (because the brain senses the eyes are too dry, so it produces an excess of tears)
- Light sensitivity
- Tired Eyes or fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Sandy, gritty feeling or a feeling like there is something in your eye
- Vision gets better and worse when blinking
Factors that Contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk of suffering from Dry Eye Syndrome. Some environmental factors can be changed to reduce your risk or symptoms. Here are the risk factors for dry eyes:
- Older Age: Dry eye can happen at any age, but it is more common in individuals over 50.
- Worse in Women: Due to hormonal fluctuations, women are more likely to develop dry eyes than men. It can be worse during pregnancy, menopause or for women taking birth control pills.
- Using Digital Devices: When our eyes are focused on a digital screen (phones, tablets, computers, etc.) we actually blink less, which increases dryness, blurriness and discomfort. Taking a break to look away from the screen can help improve symptoms.
- Certain Medications: Both prescription and over the counter medications can cause dry eye symptoms. This includes certain drugs for hypertension, antihistamines, nasal decongestants, sedatives and antidepressants.
- Contact Lens Wearers: Contact lenses are like little sponges that soak up moisture from your eyes. which makes dry eyes symptoms worse. Several manufacturers have started offering lenses that hold moisture to combat dry eyes.
- Dry Air: Air conditioning and forced-air heating indoors or dry, windy conditions outside can contribute to dry eyes by causing your tears to evaporate quickly.
- LASIK: One main side effect of LASIK or refractive surgery is dry eyes. This lasts about 3-6 months and for most people will eventually resolve.
- Eyelid Problems: Certain eyelid conditions which prevent the eyes from closing completely while sleeping or during a blink can cause the eyes to become dry.
- Allergies or Infections: Allergies or infections such as blepharitis or conjunctivitis can cause symptoms of dry eyes.
- Systemic Disease: People with autoimmune disease, diabetes, thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome and lupus among others are also more prone to Dry Eye Syndrome.
How is Dry Eye Treated?
Dry eyes can make you feel miserable, but there are a number of treatment options available that can help depending on the severity and cause of your type of dry eyes. All of the treatments are designed to improve sign, symptoms, and ultimately make you more comfortable.
Treatments for dry eyes include non-prescription eye drops like artificial tears. The type of eye drop prescribed will differ depending on your type of dry eye. Prescription eye drops including Restasis (cyclosporin) or Xiidra (lifitegrast) can provide significant relief from dry eye syndrome. Omega 3 fatty acid supplements, special lid hygiene therapies, punctal plugs, ointments, specialty contact lenses, humidifiers, dry eye goggles or changes to your work station may also be part of the therapy prescribed by your doctor to treat dry eyes.
Get relief from Dry Eyes today!
If you think you may have dry eyes, make an appointment to see your eye doctor. A dry eye workup will determine the cause of the symptoms and the type of dry eye you have. Then your eye doctor will develop a customized treatment plan. Often times relief from dry eyes can be found in the first few days of treatment!