Millions of Americans suffer every day from dry eyes. The common condition occurs when your body’s natural tears are not able to adequately lubricate your eyes. This can happen for a multitude of reasons. Regardless of how it happens, the condition can leave you itching, rubbing, and your eyes burning. Fortunately, this is an easy problem to treat the symptoms of. Eye doctors can go a step further and help you treat the root cause of what’s making your eyes an uncomfortable issue.
What Is Dry Eyes?
If you have dry eyes, you likely already know it. Dry eyes is a very uncomfortable condition that can leave you feeling bad all day. You might experience it all day, or only in certain situations. For example, when you’re in a room with breezy air conditioning, riding a bike, looking a computer for a long time, or are on an airplane. Whether you are suffering from dry eyes for a prolonged period of time or just for a little bit, your eyes will feel scratchy and will sting or burn.
Dry eyes is a very common condition that affects many people all over the world. If it happens every once in a while (or if you know that some environmental factor is causing it) then it isn’t overly concerning. However, if you are suffering from dry eyes day in and day out, your eyes could be damaged. Even though temporary dry eyes isn’t dangerous, it is very uncomfortable and will likely force you to seek relief. In either case, you should seek out some form of treatment and get your eyes lubricated at a good level.
What Are The Symptoms Of Dry Eyes?
There are many symptoms of dry eyes. You may experience all of these or just some of them. Generally, symptoms of dry eyes affect both eyes. If you are experiencing symptoms in only one eye, you may have an infection or some other condition. The classic symptoms of dry eyes are:
- Stinging or burning in your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Redness in or around your eyes
- Sensation of having something stuck in your eye
- Difficulty with wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty seeing or blurry vision
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Dry eyes can be caused by many factors. In general, the condition is related to a lack of adequate tears. No, these aren’t the sad tears you cry, but the ones that should always be present on the surface of your eye to keep it lubricated. These tears are made up of water, fatty oils, and some mucus. Normally, this mixture keeps your eyes lubricated, smooth, clear of debris, and helps fight infection.
When you experience dry eyes, there are not enough of these tears to do their job. This can happen in a few different ways. The obvious reason is that your body is not making enough tears to begin with. Another reason could be that your tears are evaporating at a faster-than-normal rate. Finally, your dry eyes could be caused by an imbalance in the mixture of your tears.
What Causes Decreased Tear Production?
This is one of the most common ways that you get dry eyes. The medical term for decreased tear production is keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This can happen for many reasons, including normal age-related changes, tear gland damage from injury or radiation, or temporarily after laser eye surgery. Your tear production can also decrease with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid disorders, Vitamin A deficiency, and rheumatoid arthritis. Finally, some medications can decrease the amount of tears in your eyes. A few are antihistamines (for allergies), decongestants, hormonal birth control, high blood pressure meds, acne medications, antidepressants, and Parkinson’s drugs.
What Causes My Tears To Evaporate Too Fast?
Most temporary dry eye cases are caused by your tears evaporating too quickly from the surface of your eye. Often, once you remove the cause of the evaporation your eyes will “catch up” and dry eyes will go away. However, things like fast-moving wind, smoke, or dry air such as on an airplane can all make your tears evaporate quickly. Another problem that is becoming more common is dry eyes caused by screen usage from not blinking enough.
What Are The Treatments For Dry Eyes?
Fortunately, there are many treatments for dry eyes. As with most conditions, preventing dry eye is the most effective treatment. For example, staying out of smoky wind and making sure to take breaks when at the computer are important. In some cases, avoiding dry eyes is not possible. For these situations, or anytime you might experience dry eyes, there are many options available to help restore your comfort.
Artificial tears offer instant relief for your dry eyes. You can use them whenever your eyes are feeling a little dry.
Prescription dry eye medications:
There are multiple drugs approved by the FDA to treat chronic dry eye symptoms caused by decreased tear production.
A surgical procedure can be done to close your tear draining ducts, preventing you from losing tears. This will help keep your eyes moist.
Asking your physician about changing a medication that might be the cause of your dry eye is a possibility. Other changes like not smoking, cutting back on screen time, and sunglasses when outdoors can also help fight dry eyes.
Should I See An Eye Doctor For My Dry Eyes?
If you are struggling with dry eyes often, you should likely visit your eye doctor. He or she will help you determine the cause of your dry eyes and then suggest treatments based on the diagnosis. This can help prevent damage to the surface of your eyes from chronic scratching and inflammation. Treating dry eyes can also help prevent eye infections caused by decreased infection-fighting tears. No matter what is causing your dry eyes, your eye doctor will be able to help treat and prevent them from negatively influencing your daily life.