Dry Eyes Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. This can lead to discomfort, irritation and blurry vision.
More than 2 million Australians suffer from dry eyes, and more than 30% of Australians suffer from eye allergies at least once during their lifetime.
Let’s have a look at the causes of dry eye, as well as the various treatment options available to alleviate symptoms, so you are better informed to improve your overall eye health.
What is Dry Eye?
Dry eye, also known as dry eye syndrome, is a condition in which the eyes do not produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. Tears are essential components of eye health providing lubrication and protection.
When the eyes are not properly lubricated, it can lead to discomfort, irritation and blurry vision. Dry eye can be a chronic condition or occur temporarily due to certain factors such as environmental conditions, hormonal changes, or medication side effects.
What Causes Dry Eye?
There are several common causes of dry eye.
One of the main causes is age, as tear production tends to decrease as we get older. Other factors that can contribute to dry eye include certain medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid disorders. Environmental factors such as dry climates, windy conditions, and exposure to smoke or air pollution can also lead to dry eye.
Additionally, certain medications like antihistamines, decongestants, and antidepressants can cause dry eye as a side effect. It’s important to identify the underlying cause of your dry eye in order to determine the most effective treatment options.
A general list of the main causes of dry eyes are listed below:
- Outdoor Environmental Factors: windy, smoke, dry weather, low humidity, high altitude
- Indoor Environment Factors: heating, A/C (especially plane travel), dusty interiors
- Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD): blockage or atrophy of the meibomian glands
- Eye trauma: impact injury or burns.
- Eye surgery: vision correction/laser eye surgery, cataract surgery
- Contact Lens wear
- Age: tear production decreases as we age
- Hormonal changes: Menopause is associated with dry eye syndrome
- Medical conditions: diabetes, autoimmune diseases (such as Sjögren syndrome), rheumatoid arthritis
- Lifestyle Factors: smoking, diet, consumption of diuretics without proper hydration
- Allergies: hayfever, pollen, animals
- Medications: antihistamines, beta-blockers, antispasmodics, diuretics, antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, blood pressure medications. Dry Eye Syndrome is also associated with Accutane, chemotherapy and radiation
- Infrequent blinking: screen use, staring without blinking
- Nocturnal lagophthalmos: a condition where the eyes don’t fully blink and stay partially open at night
- Recurrent corneal erosions: when the cornea and eye lid stick together at night.
- Obstruction of the lacrimal glands.
What are the Symptoms of Dry Eye?
The symptoms of dry eye can vary from person to person, but common symptoms include a gritty or sandy feeling in the eyes, redness, itching, burning, excessive tearing, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light.
Some individuals may also experience eye fatigue or discomfort when wearing contact lenses. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to consult with an eye care professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
A general list of the main symptoms of dry eyes are listed below:
- Tired or heavy eyes (feeling you need to close your eyes)
- Itchy eyes (often in the corners of the eyes)
- Stinging/burning sensation (in or around the eyes)
- Sensitivity to light
- Watery Eyes (this could be occasional or constant tearing)
- Mucus (around your eyelids especially when you wake up)
- Grittiness (feeling like you have sand or an eyelash in your eye)
- Contact lens intolerance or discomfort
- Fluctuating vision or occasional blurred vision
What are the Treatment Options for Dry Eye?
What you do depends on what is the cause of your dry eyes.
Some treatments focus on reversing or managing a condition or factor that’s causing your dry eyes. Other treatments can improve your tear quality or stop your tears from quickly draining away from your eyes.
Treating the underlying cause of dry eyes
In some cases, treating an underlying health issue can help clear up the signs and symptoms of dry eyes. For instance, if a medication is causing your dry eyes, replacing it with a different medicine that doesn’t cause that side effect may be the solution.
Dry Eye Treatment & Artificial Tears or Medicated Eye Drops
For some people using artificial tears or eye drops to restore moisture to the eyes is enough to treat dry eyes.
Dry Eye Treatment & Punctal plugs
Another approach to treating dry eyes is plugging the openings to the tear ducts with tiny silicone plugs (punctal plugs). These plugs close the tiny opening (punctum) that you have in the inner corner of your upper and lower eyelids. The closure conserves both your own tears and artificial tears you may have added.
Consult with a Melton Optical Optometrist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
Tips for Preventing & Managing Dry Eye
While there is no guaranteed way to prevent dry eye, there are several steps you can take to manage the condition and reduce symptoms.
First, it is important to avoid environmental factors that can worsen dry eye, such as exposure to smoke, wind, and dry air. Using a humidifier in your home or office can help to add moisture to the air and alleviate dryness.
Additionally, taking regular breaks from activities that require intense focus, such as reading or using a computer, can help to reduce eye strain and prevent dryness. It is also important to maintain good overall eye health by practicing good hygiene, avoiding rubbing your eyes, and protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays with sunglasses. Finally, staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water can help to keep your eyes moisturised from the inside out.
If you are experiencing persistent dry eye symptoms, please contact us at Melton Optical – our Optometrists will be able to give you a proper diagnosis and personalised treatment plan.
Blinking can be helpful for your vision
Blinking flushes fresh tears over the eye. This keeps foreign matter & other irritants out. Blinking also helps re-moisturise your eyes and to deliver nutrients to the important structures within your eye.
In modern society, nearly all of us spend huge amounts of time using screens – computers, tablets, smartphones and the television. Excessively staring at screens is exacerbating dry eye and ocular discomfort.
It is important to blink.
We recommend the 20/20/20 rule
Every 20 minutes, close your eyelids shut & then squeeze lightly for two seconds.
Open your eyes, then look 20 feet across the room for 20 seconds.
This blinking action activates your distance vision & rests your eyes.
It is good to take time to look out a window or simply close your eyes.
Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Melton Optical Services has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Please consult our optometrists for a comprehensive diagnosis & treatment of your overall eyehealth.