What Is Dry Eye Syndrome And What To Do About It
Dry eye syndrome (DES) is a common condition that affects the eyes. It can be caused by several factors, including genetics, aging, certain medications and other health conditions. People who suffer from dry eye syndrome often experience symptoms such as blurred vision, burning or itching in the eyes, fatigue and excessive tearing. Allergies can also cause dry eyes, but they are not considered to be a long-term cause of the condition since they subside when allergens are removed from the environment.
Dry Eye Syndrome involves a lack of moisture in the eye
Dry eye syndrome is caused by a lack of moisture in the eyes. The basic mechanism behind this condition involves an insufficient amount of tears being produced, which in turn causes inflammation and damage to the corneal surface. This process can result in decreased tear production, redness, pain, grittiness or soreness.
As mentioned above, dry eye syndrome is not infectious or contagious; it’s not a disease and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re aging more quickly than others your age (though there is some correlation).
Symptoms can include blurred vision and burning
The symptoms of dry eye syndrome range from mild to severe. Many people with dry eye syndrome have no visible signs, but other individuals experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
- Burning or stinging in the eyes
- Tearing (watering) in both eyes
- Itchy eyes that are red and watery
- Feeling like something is in your eye
There are several causes for dry eye syndrome
You may be wondering what causes dry eye syndrome. While the exact cause of this condition is unknown, there are several factors that can lead to it. These include:
- Age – As you age, your body produces less tears which can make your eyes feel dryer.
- Allergies – You may experience an allergic reaction that leads to swelling and irritation in your eyes or eyelids.
- Contact lens use – Wearing contact lenses for long periods of time can cause a buildup of bacteria on the surface of your eye as well as in between your eyelid folds and increase risk for infection or inflammation.
- Medication – Certain medications including antihistamines and antidepressants have been linked with increased risk for dry eye syndrome. Some blood pressure medications also cause side effects like dry mouth or eyes due to their impact on how fluids move through our bodies (which includes tears).
People with Dry Eye Syndrome often complain of sensitivity to light
Dry eye syndrome causes irritation and burning in the eyes, which can make it difficult to focus on objects or read. Patches of blood vessels may develop on the whites of your eyes. Your eyelids may be red, swollen and sticky from excessive tear production. The symptoms are not just painful; they are often embarrassing as well.
When people with dry eye syndrome experience visual problems or discomfort, they often feel that something is wrong inside their eyes. The problem doesn’t go away easily because most people don’t realize how common this condition is or how many different treatments are available to treat it.
Artificial tears and nutritional supplements can help with Dry Eyes
There are several non-surgical treatments for dry eyes. These include artificial tears and nutritional supplements.
Artificial tears can be used to lubricate the eyes. Some people prefer to use drops, while others prefer ointments. A combination of both types is also common, with the ointment being used at night and the drops during the day.
People with dry eyes need to see an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
If you have chronic dry eye symptoms, your ophthalmologist or optometrist may be able to help. The eye doctor will check for an underlying cause of the dryness by performing a comprehensive eye exam. They may also take a sample of tears and send it to a laboratory for analysis.
The doctor might recommend different treatments, depending on what’s causing your eyes to be dry:
- For people with an eye disease that causes them to produce less tears than they should (such as Sjögren’s syndrome), treatment involves working with their health care provider(s) on medications that reduce inflammation and increase tear production. If those fail, surgical procedures are available as well.
- For people taking medications that are known to cause dry eyes, such as antidepressants or blood pressure medications like beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, their doctors can prescribe artificial tears at the appropriate time of day based on the schedule they’re taking their regular medication(s). In some cases where artificial tears alone aren’t enough, oral supplements can help boost tear production as well.*
Dry eyes can be annoying, but it’s important to remember that they’re a symptom of other conditions. If you have dry eyes and think you might have another condition, talk to your doctor or visit an eye doctor right away. It may be something as simple as allergies or dust in the air that can be treated with prescription drops or allergy medicine.