Dry eyes can happen when tears evaporate too quickly, or if the eyes produce too few tears. It can affect one or both eyes, and it can lead to inflammation. Dry eye syndrome can occur at any age, and in people who are otherwise healthy.
The tear film in our eyes has a specific composition, consisting of an outer oily layer, a watery layer, and a mucous layer. There are several ways it can be disrupted, each resulting in dry eye. The overall tear production can decrease, tear evaporation can increase due to a disruption of the oily layer, or the composition can become imbalanced. These problems can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Medications like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, birth control pills, and others
Dry, windy, or smoky environments
Long periods spent staring at a screen, which can reduce blinking frequency.
A patient with dry eye syndrome may experience a range of symptoms, including:
a stinging or burning sensation, and a feeling of dryness, grittiness, and soreness in the eyes
a feeling like sand in the eye
stringy mucus in or around the eyes
eye sensitivity to smoke or wind
redness of the eyes
difficulty keeping the eyes open
eye fatigue after reading, even for a short time
blurred vision, especially towards the end of the day
sensitivity to light
discomfort when wearing contact lenses
eyelids sticking together when waking up
Some people find the pain very strong, and this can lead to frustration, anxiety, and difficulty functioning in daily life.
Complications may include a worsening of eye redness and light sensitivity, increasing painful eyes, and deterioration of eyesight.
A doctor will do a physical examination and ask the patient about symptoms, their medical history, any current medications, and about their occupation and personal circumstances.
Tests can reveal the quantity of tears behind the eyelid, whether the tear film is functioning properly, and the rate of evaporation.
Treatment aims to keep the eyes well lubricated, but the approach depends on the underlying cause.
Three ways of keeping the eyes lubricated are:
making the most of natural tears
using artificial tears or eye drops
reducing tear drainage
If the problem stems from an ophthalmic or systemic condition, such as an eye infection or psoriasis, the underlying condition needs to be treated first.
If the patient has blepharitis, they may need to clean the affected area regularly with a dilute solution of baby shampoo. The doctor may prescribe antibiotic drops or ointment for night time use.
Steroid drops may help reduce inflammation if symptoms remain severe, even after the frequent use of eye-drops.
Consciously blinking more frequently when using the computer or watching TV.
Avoiding smoking and smoky places.
Keeping room temperature moderate.
Using a humidifier in the home to help moisten the air. Spraying curtains with a fine spray of water can help keep the air humid.
Some studies indicate that omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids may help reduce the risk or the incidence of dry eyes. Sources include oily fish, canola oil, walnuts, flax oil, ground flax seed, hemp oil, hemp seed, olive oil, pumpkin seeds, and soybeans.
This post originally appeared on Medical News Today.