What Causes Dry Eyes?
Suffering from dry eyes, is a common problem when your tears aren’t able to provide enough lubrication for the eyes. There can be a number of different contributing factors in what causes dry eyes. This article will explore the causes, symptoms and some prevention techniques for dealing with dry eyes.
There are three main categories for what causes dry eyes. These are: Decreased tear production; Increased tear evaporation; and an imbalance in tear composition. Along with these categories, there are also different factors which mean you are more at risk of experiencing dry eyes.
Decreased tear production
The medical term for this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca. Here are some of the causes associated with it:
- Medical conditions such as – diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, vitamin A deficiency
- Laser eye surgery (usually temporary)
- Tear gland damage
Increased tear evaporation
Some of the common causes of this include:
- Wind, smoke or dry air – often found from air conditioners
- Blinking less – common from looking at computer screens too long
- Eyelid problems – e.g. out-turning of eyelids (ectropion) or in-turning of eyelids (entropion)
Imbalance in tear composition
This is caused when there is a problem in production of one of the three basic tear film layers: oil, water and mucus.
Whose most at risk?
Certain factors unfortunately mean you may be more likely to experience dry eyes. Some of these include:
- Over 50 – the rate at which tear production occurs, decreases as you get older
- Female – Hormonal changes that come through pregnancy, birth control pills and menopause can lead to eye dryness
- Diets low in vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids
- Contact lenses
- Jobs with high visual concentration
You may experience multiple symptoms. If the problems persist for a prolonged period, see a doctor and/or an optician. Here’s a list of some of the symptoms you may come across:
- Eyes sting, burn or feel scratchy
- A stringy mucus appears in or around your eyes
- Develop a sensitivity to light
- Eyes appear red
- Have a sensation that something is in your eye
- Contact lenses become difficult to wear
- Driving at night becomes difficult
- Vision becomes blurry and eyes fatigued
Through all the different causes of dry eyes, there are also a number of preventative measures that can be taken. These include:
- Avoid air blowing into your eyes – e.g. hairdryers, car heaters and air-conditioners
- Take eye breaks from long tasks – look into the distance and blink repeatedly in periodic breaks. Especially if you have been staring at screens or completing any other forms of visual concentration.
- Stop smoking
- Drink plenty of water
- Eye drops – use of preservative free eye drops such as ‘Oculube’ can offer less chance of irritation found within eye drops with added preservatives
- Thicker eye gels and ointments – Gels like Lunox Gel can provide a relief that might not have been achieved from eye drops, however, they tend to blur vision due to their thickness. Therefore, these are better used before bed.
For most people, over-the-counter eyedrops will provide sufficient relief for dry eyes. If this doesn’t seem to be doing enough, your optician and doctor can advise you on further remedies including medications, procedures, lifestyle amends and possibly alternative medicines.