Tears are a film of moisture in front of our eyes. They lubricate our eyes, and provide a physical and chemically balance environment for our eyes. Dry eyes occurs when our eyes produce too little tears or tears of poor quality to maintain this protective environment. This will lead to longstanding discomfort and decreased vision.
In severe dry eyes, there is decrease protection of the eye leading to increased infection rates and scarring of the cornea. This can permanently reduce vision.
Symptoms of Dry eyes
- Frequent blurring of vision
- Stinging or burning sensation
- “sand in the eye”
- Sensitivity to bright lights
- Watery eyes
Causes of Dry eyes
- Age- As we get older, tear production will decrease. Dry eyes often starts to occur in the 40s and is more common in the elderly population.
- Visual activity – Blinking helps to coat and redistribute our tears. Without the redistribution, our tears dry up quickly. Frequently blink rates decrease when we are concentrating on our visual task (eg. reading, using the computer, watching television). This reduces redistribution and tears evaporate away.
- Environment- Windy, dusty, smoky or hazy environments can increase in incidents of dry eyes. In air condition environments, the humidity is low and this exacerbates dry eyes.
- Hormones- Women nearing their menopause often complain of increased dry eyes.
- Drug use- Antihistamines and decongestants often used in runny noses d ecrease tear production. Anti Acne pills and some blood pressure medicines and chemotherapy are also associated with dry eyes.
- Meibomian gland disease- This is a chronic inflammatory condition of the lid margin and may result with poor quality of tears.
- Other factors- Previous eye surgery especially LASIK, contact lens use, diabetes, some hormone deficiency many also lead to dry eyes.
The treatment for dry eyes depend on the causes and associated conditions. Symptomatic relieve includes
- Artificial tears. Mostly used during the day
- Eye ointment. Usually applied before bedtime.
- Punctal occlusion. To retain tears within the eye.
Your doctor will advise you whether you have any ocular and systemic diseases or drugs that can aggravate dry eyes and what to do in those circumstances.
Other helpful tips:
- Changing environment such as reduced contact lens wear
- lowering of height of computer monitors
- less exposure to air conditioning
- Diet with sufficient Omega-3 lipid components can have a significant impact on the control of dry eyes.
- Meibomian gland disease control including warm compresses and lid scrubs. Sometimes an oral or topical antibiotics may be prescribed.