Dry eyes occur when your eyes don’t produce enough quality tears to keep them healthy and lubricated. Having dry eyes is a frustrating problem to live with. They can be irritating and a distraction from daily activities. They can also impede on your sight, making it hard to read or drive. If you have dry eyes, here are some things for you to know.
If you’re experiencing dry eye, there are a number of symptoms you could be experiencing. Some of these include:
- Stinging, burning or itching
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty wearing contacts
- Watery eyes and blurred vision
- Feeling like there’s something in your eye
- Sensitivity to light
- Strings of mucus in or around your eyes
- Increased tear production
Tears keep your eyes smooth and clean and prevent infection, and they spread over your eyes when you blink to keep them healthy. Having dry eyes is not normal, and this condition can happen for a variety of reasons. Some of them result from the contents of your tears themselves, which are made of three parts: water, fatty oils and mucus. If you’re experiencing dry eyes, it could be because of decreased tear production, tear evaporation or an imbalance in the contents of your tears. Other causes and risk factors of dry eyes include:
- Aging—As you age, so do your eyes and their tear-producing abilities. Tear production tends to lessen after age 50.
- Medical conditions—Many chronic conditions can affect your tear production and result in dry eyes. Some of these include diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and thyroid disorders. Eyelid problems such as ectropion (the turning-outward of eyelids) and entropion (the turning-inward of eyelids) can also cause dry eye. Certain medicines can contribute, too, such as medication for high blood pressure, heart problems, allergies, sleeping and anxiety/depression.
- Hormonal changes—Females who are pregnant, undergoing menopause or taking birth control pills may experience dry eye. Hormone therapy can also cause it.
- Environmental qualities—People who frequent areas with dry climates or lots of smoke or wind may experience dry eye.
- Lifestyle—Risk behaviors such as smoking can irritate the eyes. Prolonged near activities, such as reading and computer use, can aggrevate dry eye symptoms since blinking is reduced leading to increased tear evaporation from the ocular surface.
There are a number of treatment options for dry eyes. One of the most common is the use of eye drops. You can use over-the-counter eye drops to keep your eyes moist when need be, or your eye doctor can prescribe medicinal eye drops if he or she sees fit. Some medicinal eye drops actually help increase your tear production, if that’s what is needed. Or, your optometrist may decide to conserve your tears by blocking your tear ducts, the tiny organ through which your tears drain.
Some self-care techniques you can practice to keep your dry eye problems at bay include:
- Making sure you blink regularly (as this evenly distributes your tears) and take eye breaks when at work or when you’ve been looking at a screen for a long period of time.
- Increasing the humidity in your environment with a humidifier, as this will keep more natural moisture in the air and help keep your eyes from drying out.
- Wearing protective eyewear outdoors if you’re in an area that is overly dry or windy.
- Taking dietary supplements such as those containing fatty acids. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil supplements can help increase the oil component of the tear film and is a good source of Omega-3. Consult with your eyecare provider to see if this option will help you.
- Drinking plenty of water to avoid dehydration.
- Quitting smoking.
If your dry eye problems persist, please don’t hesitate to make an appointment with us at Piedmont Eye Center! We’d love to help make your eyes feel better.