Having dry eyes is one of the most common eye problems, so if you’re having this uncomfortable condition, you’re not alone.
Dry eye is essentially when your eyes don’t have enough lubrication or tears to keep the front of the eye as hydrated as it needs to see clearly. Some of the symptoms include blurry vision, tired or red eyes, itchiness, aching or a heavy feeling in your eyes. You may also have a burning sensation and sensitivity to light as well as, of course, a dry feeling.
Medically, dry eye can be due to a number of syndromes, including dryness and inflammation of the cornea, dryness of both the cornea (the front surface of the eye) and conjunctiva (the membrane that the front of your eye), or poor quality of tears.
You need tears – and good quality tears – to coat the front of your eyes so that they can wash away dust and microorganisms that could hurt them or cause infection. Your eyes need to produce tears that are watery and oily, and with some mucus to cover the white of your eye. Water helps keep your eye moist, oil helps the water from evaporating too quickly and the mucus helps spread your tears over the surface of your eyes.
If your tears lack any one of these factors, which are each produced by different ducts in your eye, you’ll likely have dry eye. Your optometrist can help you get to the root of your dry eye and recommend an appropriate treatment.
For one, as you age, you’re more likely to get this condition, with women being more prone to it than men. But you could be suffering from dry eye for a number of specific reasons. Medical conditions like thyroid disorders, diabetes, a lack of Vitamin A and rheumatoid arthritis can all trigger dry eye.
More commonly, especially among young people, environmental factors like too much screen time can cause dry eye because you tend to blink less when you are starting at a device. Also, if you’re exposed to smoke or a dry climate, you may feel some of the dry eye symptoms.
In addition, you may develop dry eye if you take medications like antidepressants or antihistamines that can reduce how many tears you make as one of their side effects.
To evaluate your specific condition, your optometrist may examine your eyes, especially your cornea and eyelids and study the way you blink. They may want to measure how you produce tears by using a dye that can help them see how your tears flow. Of course, as they asses you, they’ll likely your health history as well as any medications you may be taking into account.
As for treatment, that will depend on what’s causing your dry eye. Over-the-counter eyes drops, or artificial tears, are among the common remedies, but your doctor may recommend prescription drops or ointments. Or, you may need to have your draining tear ducts blocked to help keep your eyes hydrated longer.
Meanwhile, you can do several things on your own to prevent dry eye. First, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Try to take frequent breaks from screen time and always wear sunglasses when you’re outside. You might even want to use a humidifier to keep the air hydrated, especially during winter months when the heater is on.