If you have dry eye, you may find that you are experiencing stinging, a gritty sensation in your eye, or redness. Dry eye can either be chronic or just a temporary condition. It happens when the tear glands don’t produce enough tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. Untreated chronic dry eye can cause different complications from infections to double vision, but there is relief.
Sometimes dry eye can actually cause you to have too many tears. This is called reflex tearing and it occurs due to the lack of moisture irritating your eyes. This sends a signal to your nervous system in to create more lubrication (tears) to account for the dryness. This is similar to what happens if you get sand in your eye and your eye is watery. These tears are mostly just made from water so they don’t have the same benefits as normal tears. They aren’t able to coat the eye’s surface and instead only wash away debris.
There are many different causes of chronic dry eye:
Even though anyone, no matter the age, can experience dry eye, the condition is more common as you get older. Dry eyes affect more people over the age of 50 since tear production slows down with age. You aren’t able to prevent this cause of dry eye but using artificial tears can give you extra lubrication to relieve dryness and to coat the eyes.
Tears are made of mucus, water, and oil. Certain medications can reduce mucus production, and this leads to chronic dry eye. These medications can include antidepressants, beta blockers to treat hypertension, diuretics, and antihistamines. If you experience eye dryness and take medication, you should speak with your doctor. There could be an alternative medication, or you may need to lower your dose to help reduce the dry eyes. You can also continue to use your medication along with artificial tears to prevent symptoms.
Too Much Time on the Computer
Some people who spend a good portion of the day on the computer experience tension headaches and eyestrain. Staring at a computer can also lead to dry eye and affect tear production. Those who are spending their days working on a computer tend to blink less and this means that tears evaporate faster. If you do have to spend time on a computer for your work, then be sure to blink more frequently and take breaks from staring at the screen. Blinking can help lubricate the eyes and prevent irritation and dryness. If you still do have dryness, try using artificial tears while working.
Some people have dry eyes after laser vision surgery. Laser surgery cuts some of the nerves in the cornea and this causes the eye to make fewer tears. This type of dry eye is not typically choric and will resolve after just a few weeks. Until the eyes heal, try using lubricating drops to keep the eyes moist.
Hormones play a role in dry eye. Some women have these symptoms during menopause, pregnancy, or during their time on birth control pills. Hormones stimulate tear production so if there is a hormone imbalance, it can lead to lower tear production. Hormone replacement therapy doesn’t seem to help with dry eye symptoms, but you can talk to your doctor about using eye drops in order to reduce the irritation.
Vitamin A Deficiency
Vitamin A helps you have healthy eyes. Foods that have high levels of Vitamin A include spinach, fish, carrots, eggs, peppers, and broccoli. A diet low in foods that have this vitamin can lead to vision impairments as well as dry eye. A blood test can be done in order to diagnose Vitamin A deficiency. You can then ask your doctor about eye drops that have Vitamin A.
Exposure to Wind and the Elements
Exposure to wind or cold climates can cause tears to evaporate fast and this means chronic dryness. In order to protect the eyes, you should wear sunglasses that wrap around the head in order to keep them from the effects of wind and cold and use lubricating eye drops.
This is an autoimmune disorder that causes white blood cells to attack the tear and salivary glands and this lowers tear production. Treatment includes prescription and over-the-counter lubricating eye drops. Doctors may also give you a steroid eye drop. If dry eyes don’t get better after the drops then surgery may be recommended. This surgery involves implanting silicone plugs into the tear ducts in order to help preserve some tears.
Other Autoimmune Conditions
Autoimmune conditions have many other symptoms, but these conditions, such as diabetes, lupus, or arthritis, can cause insufficient or poor tear production. Treating the underlying condition can help with the dry eye symptoms. Treatment for autoimmune conditions can mean using a corticosteroid or an immunosuppressant drug.
This condition happens when the small oil glands on the inner eyelid are inflamed and clogged. Not only does it cause dry eye, but it also means you could have oily flakes around the eyelashes. There is not a cure for this condition. You can reduce inflammation by using a warm compress over the eyes for a few minutes and cleaning the eyelids using baby shampoo. When the inflammation is getting better, use artificial tears to decrease redness and dry eye. If symptoms don’t get better, you can seek treatment with antibiotic eye drops.
Allergies might trigger chronic dry eye. Eyes can appear red, watery, and itchy. Oral antihistamine can reduce allergies, but these medications can actually make dry eye symptoms worse. If you only get dry eyes from allergies then learn more about antihistamine eye drops.
Dry eye can be the result of not getting enough fluids and dehydration. Other symptoms to pay attention to for dehydration include lack of energy, rapid heartbeat, or dark urine. Increasing your fluids and drinking plenty of water can ease the symptoms of dry eye and help with dehydration.
Dry air translates to dry eyes. This can happen if you sleep next to an air vent or there is low humidity in your home. Moving so that air isn’t blowing directly on the eyes can help with symptoms. You may also want to consider a humidifier in order to prevent tear evaporation by adding moisture to the air.
Smoking yourself or even just exposure to secondhand smoke makes the eyes dry. Avoid smoky environments and try quitting if you do smoke.
The use of contact lenses is another risk for chronic dry eye since lenses block oxygen getting to the cornea. If your eyes don’t get enough lubrication then you can ask your eye doctor about contacts for dry eyes or switch to eyeglasses. Contacts made for dry eyes help your eyes keep moisture.
Relief of Dry Eyes
Treating dry eyes will depend on what is causing them. It helps to avoid dry places, secondhand smoke, and fans blowing in your face. Using eye drops, a humidifier, and taking breaks from the computer can help relieve symptoms.
iLux Procedure for Dry Eye
One proven treatment your Eye Doctor might recommend to you is the iLux® procedure. iLux® is a newer procedure focusing on individualized targeted treatment of dry eye. It is a safe and effective option that uses localized heat and compression therapy to melt trapped oils and express them out of the eye’s glands. The procedure is completed once the oils are expressed or as they appear on the lid margin. For more difficult areas, the procedure can be repeated until the oils are extracted. iLux® treatment only lasts patients about 8 minutes and usually eases their symptoms for up to 6 to 8 months.
When to See an Eye Doctor
If your eyes are painful, red, or, dry for a long period of time, you should speak with an eye doctor. You should make an eye appointment if treatments at home aren’t helping your symptoms. Your doctor may help you discover the cause of dry eye and work with you to get the best treatment. It’s important to pay attention to symptoms and get treatment since there are complications that can cause damage to the eye.
Visit Florida Eye Specialists and Cataract Institute
If you are experiencing dry eye, make an appointment to visit an eye doctor at Florida Eye Specialist and Cataract Institute. With the latest technology and convenient locations, our eye doctors can help you get to the root of the problem to find relief.