Understanding Dry Eye and How to Treat It
A person’s tears aren’t just for crying. They’re actually very important in keeping our eyes healthy, and our eyes constantly bathe in them – for the most part. However, there are times that we don’t produce enough tears or they’re of the wrong composition.
This condition is called dry eye and can be very uncomfortable. If left untreated, it can cause pain and damage the cornea. The effects of dry eyes can be distressing enough that those experiencing it are unable to perform some activities. When this happens, it’s best to treat it quickly.
The Tear Film
Our eyes are covered in a film of tears that keep them moist, lubricated, and clean. This tear film is composed of three components: an oily (lipid) outer layer, a watery (aqueous) middle layer, and an inner layer of mucus. Each of these components is produced by glands near the eyes. Any excess tears are drained through tear ducts.
A problem with any part of the tear system will can cause our eyes to be insufficiently lubricated and moisturized – thus causing dry eyes.
Some of the symptoms of dry eyes include:
- Gritty or foreign body sensation. It can feel like you’ve got fine sand or other debris caught in your eyes.
- Burning, achy, or itchy sensations. Sensations can range from mildly uncomfortable to painful.
- Light sensitivity
- Inflammation of the eye surface
- Blurred vision
- Watery eyes are also symptoms of dry eyes as the tear reflex is triggered. Unfortunately, these tears are too watery and fail to relieve the underlying problem.
What Causes Dry Eyes
There are many known causes of dry eyes and the most common ones are:
- Prolonged Computer Use – When we use computers and smart phones, we blink less than we normally would. This leads to our tears to evaporating faster than it can be replenished and increases the risk of developing dry eye symptoms.
- Aging – Dry eyes occur more frequently in older adults, and women are more susceptible to it after menopause.
- Medication – Dry eyes can be a side effect of certain medications. Antihistamines, anti-depressants, decongestants, tranquilizers, oral contraceptives, and some blood pressure medication have been known to cause dry eyes.
- Contact Lenses – Wearing contact lenses has been known to exacerbate dry eyes.
- Eye Surgery – LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery have been known to temporarily cause dry eyes.
- Diseases and other conditions – Certain diseases like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and thyroid-associated diseases have been known to contribute to dry eyes. Eyelid problems can also cause dry eyes.
Treatment for dry eyes varies depending on the cause. These can range from using artificial tears, prescription of special eyedrops, or even closing the tear ducts.
Some minor lifestyle adjustments can also help with dry eyes. Here are a few tips that alleviate the problem:
- Avoid prolonged computer or smart phone use and rest your eyes frequently when using gadgets.
- When going out on a sunny day, wear wrap-around sunglasses or those with side panels to reduce the rate of tear evaporation.
- When indoors, air purifiers can lower the amount of particles in the air, lessening eye irritants. Humidifiers increase the air’s moisture content helping to keep your eyes moisturized.
- If able, avoid dry conditions and activities that require prolonged use of your eyes.
Studies have shown that Omega 3 fatty acids also help prevent and treat dry eyes. Fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines have high Omega 3 content. Nuts and seeds can also provide Omega 3 but in lower quantities. Omega 3 is also available in capsule form.
For proper treatment of dry eyes, the underlying cause must be correctly determined. Visiting your eye doctor should be your first step in dealing with dry eyes. If you live in Greenacres, schedule an appointment at Planet Vision Eyecare. Dr. Hetel Bhakta is an expert in eye and vision care and will be able to help keep your eyes healthy and comfortable.