Dry eye syndrome (also known as Dry Eyes) is caused by a chronic lack of sufficient lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye.
Consequences of dry eyes range from subtle but constant eye irritation to significant inflammation and even scarring of the front surface of the eye.
In addition to being called dry eye syndrome, dry eye disease, or simply “dry eye”, as said earlier, alternative medical terms used to describe dry eyes include:
- Keratitis sicca. Generally used to describe dryness and inflammation of the cornea.
- Kerato-conjunctivitis sicca. Used to describe dry eye that affects both the cornea and the conjunctiva.
- Dysfunctional tear syndrome. Used to emphasize that inadequate quality of tears can be just as important as inadequate quantity.
What It Feels Like To Have Dry Eyes.
Dry eyes feel uncomfortable. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes
Symptoms and Signs, which usually affect both eyes, may include:
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- Heavy eyes
- Fatigued eyes
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
- Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
- Blurred vision
Causes of Dry Eyes
- An oily (lipid) component (produced by meibomian glands in the eyelids).
- A watery (aqueous) component (produced by lacrimal glands located behind the outer aspect of the upper eyelids).
- A mucous-like (mucin) component (produced by goblet cells in the conjunctiva that covers the white of the eye (sclera).
Each component of the tear film serves a critical purpose. For example, tear lipids help keep the tear film from evaporating too quickly and increase lubrication, while mucin helps anchor and spread the tears across the surface of the eye.
So the causes are either one of these;
Decreased tear production
Dry eyes can occur when you’re unable to produce enough tears. The medical term for this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca(ker-uh-toe-kun-junk-tih-VY-tis SIK-uh). Common causes of decreased tear production include:
- Certain medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency
- Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson’s disease
- Laser eye surgery, though symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary
- Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation
Increased tear evaporation
Common causes of increased tear evaporation include:
- Wind, smoke or dry air
- Blinking less often, which tends to occur when you’re concentrating, for example, while reading, driving or working at a computer
- Eyelid problems, such as out-turning of the lids (ectropion) and in-turning of the lids (entropion)
Imbalance in tear composition
The tear film has three basic layers: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes. For example, the oil film produced by small glands on the edge of your eyelids (meibomian glands) might become clogged. Blocked meibomian glands are more common in people with inflammation along the edge of their eyelids (blepharitis), rosacea or other skin disorders.
A number of factors can increase your risk of dry eyes. These include:
- Computer use. When working at a computer or using a smartphone or other portable digital device, we tend to blink our eyes less fully and less frequently, which leads to greater tear evaporation and increased risk of dry eye symptoms.
- Contact lens wear. Though it can be difficult to determine the exact extent that contact lens wear contributes to dry eye problems, dry eye discomfort is a primary reason why people discontinue contact lens wear.
- Aging. Dry eye syndrome can occur at any age, but it becomes increasingly more common later in life, especially after age 50.
- Menopause. Post-menopausal women are at greater risk of dry eyes than men of the same age.
- Indoor environment. Air conditioning, ceiling fans and forced air heating systems all can decrease indoor humidity and/or hasten tear evaporation, causing dry eye symptoms.
- Outdoor environment. Arid climates and dry or windy conditions increase dry eye risks.
- Frequent flying. The air in the cabins of airplanes is extremely dry and can lead to dry eye problems, especially among frequent flyers.
- Smoking. In addition to dry eyes, smoking has been linked to serious eye problems, including cataracts and uveitis.
- Health conditions. Certain systemic diseases — such as diabetes, thyroid-associated diseases, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome — contribute to dry eye problems.
- Medications. Many prescription and nonprescription medicines including antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure medications and birth control pills — increase the risk of dry eye symptoms.
- Eyelid problems. Incomplete closure of the eyelids when blinking or sleeping — a condition called lagophthalmos, which can be caused by aging or occur after cosmetic blepharoplasty or other causes — can cause severe dry eyes that can lead to a corneal ulcer if left untreated.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Once you get across to a medical doctor or eye doctor, a confirmation that indeed, you have a Dry Eyes must be done.
A series of short questions and examination of the eyes would be done.
A dry eye test is one of the normal test that is done.
Dry Eye Tests
The only way to know for sure if you’ve got chronic dry eye syndrome is to have your eye doctor perform one or more dry eye tests during an eye exam.
Only a careful examination of your eyes by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can reveal the presence and severity of dry eye syndrome and help your eye doctor determine the best type of dry eye treatment to keep your eyes healthy, comfortable and seeing well.
People who have dry eyes may experience these complications:
- Eye infections.Your tears protect the surface of your eyes from infection. Without adequate tears, you may have an increased risk of eye infection.
- Damage to the surface of your eyes.If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems.
- Decreased quality of life.Dry eyes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading.
- Avoid air blowing in your eyes. Don’t direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes.
- Add moisture to the air. In winter, a humidifier can add moisture to dry indoor air.
- Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear. Safety shields can be added to the tops and sides of eyeglasses to block wind and dry air. Ask about shields where you buy your eyeglasses.
- Take eye breaks during long tasks. If you’re reading or doing another task that requires visual concentration, take periodic eye breaks. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Or blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly over your eyes.
- Be aware of your environment. The air at high altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes can be extremely dry. When spending time in such an environment, it may be helpful to frequently close your eyes for a few minutes at a time to minimize evaporation of your tears.
- Position your computer screen below eye level. If your computer screen is above eye level, you’ll open your eyes wider to view the screen. Position your computer screen below eye level so that you won’t open your eyes as wide. This may help slow the evaporation of your tears between eye blinks.
- Stop smoking and avoid smoke. If you smoke, ask your doctor for help devising a quit-smoking strategy that’s most likely to work for you. If you don’t smoke, stay away from people who do. Smoke can worsen dry eyes symptoms.
- Use artificial tears regularly. If you have chronic dry eyes, use eye-drops even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you’ve had prolonged disturbing symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired or painful eyes. Your doctor can take steps to determine what’s bothering your eyes or refer you to a specialist.