Dry Eyes

1 What are Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes is a chronic condition whose main characteristic is the inability of your tears to provide proper eye lubrication. This can occur for many reasons.

You may produce insufficient amount of tears or your tears may be of poor-quality. Generally, dry eyes tend to make you feel rather uncomfortable with a feeling of stinging and burning.

Dry eye

This feeling may be induced in various situations such as staying in air-conditioned spaces, looking at a computer screen etc.

Treatments for dry eyes include changes of your lifestyle and use of special eye drops. These measures are likely to ease your symptoms.

2 Symptoms

Most common symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • Stinging, burning and scratching sensation in your eyes
  • A sensation of foreign object in your eye with eye watering
  • Accumulation of mucus
  • Light sensitivity
  • Red eyes
  • Painful eyes
  • Blurred vision with impaired night vision

3 Causes

Dry eyes are caused by inability of your tears to provide proper eye lubrication. The composition of tears (watter, fat, mucus) enables the protection of of your eyes.
The cause for this can be either reduced tear production or increased desiccation.

Inability to produce enough tears is called keratoconjuctivits sicca. Among some people, the problem lies in disproportion of tear composition.
Medical causes for this condition include: age, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, Sjögren’s syndrome, scleroderma, lupus, thyroid illnesses, vitamin A deficiency, clogged eyelid glands, blepharitis, rosacea, allergic reactions, tear gland damage.

Medications such as: hormonal therapy, antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, antihypertensives, drugs for acne, Parkinson’s etc , are known to cause the condition.
Causes of increased tear include: air composition, wind, less blinking( while driving or looking at the screen), smoke, eyelid disorders ( entropion, ecropion).

4 Making a Diagnosis

Dry eyes condition is diagnosed by performing several tests.

Once you decide to visit your family doctor, do not forget to mention all the symptoms which you are experiencing, recent life changes, other chronic illnesses and medications that you are taking.

Your doctor may refer you to the ophthalmologist. Try with using special eyedrops ( artificial tears) for eye dryness. Eyedrops that reduce eye redness can cause additional eye irritation.

Doctor are likely to undertake some tests. These include comprehensive eye examination and measuring your tear production using the Shimmer test. The main idea behind this test is measuring the distance of paper soaked by your tears after previously placing them beneath your eyelids.

Other tests are used to determine the quality of your tears, such as fluorescein clearance test.

5 Treatment

In most cases, treatment for dry eyes with the counter eye drops(artificial tears) can be sufficient. If you have more persistent symptoms, other therapeutic modules should be considered.

The therapy depends on the underlying cause of the condition. If the cause is medication, the doctor should consider switching to the other one.

  • If you have an eyelid condition, surgical correction should be done.
  • In case you have a systemic condition such as rheumatoid arthritis, your primary disease should be treated.

Prescription medications which are used to treat dry eyes include:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs (antibiotics, corticosteroids, immune-suppressors). Bear in mind that corticosteroids are not suitable for prolonged use due to its side effects.
  • Eye inserts that work like artificial tears – a small capsule of hydroxypropyl cellulose that is inserted beneath the lower eyelid.
  • Drugs that stimulate tears – cholinergics, which are available as pills, gel or eyedrops.
  • Autologous blood serum drops – eyedrops mad from your own plasma.

Other procedures include: closing your tear duct with artificial plugs or cauterization, special contact lenses (scleral lenses), unblocking oil glands, light therapy and eyeld massage.

6 Prevention

There are a number of things you can do to prevent dry eye syndrome or ease your symptoms. 

Try to avoid situations that are most likely to cause dry eyes:

  • Avoid warm air blowing in your eyes.
  • Use air moisturizers, especially in situations when air is dry, such as winter time.
  • Take breaks to rest your eyes during work.
  • Position computer screen below your eye level.
  • Avoid spaces with smoke.
  • Use artificial tears.

7 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle changes are necessary in order to cope with dry eyes.

Dry eyes can be managed with frequent eyelid washing and over-the-counter eye drops for lubrication.

Use eye drops even when your eyes feel fine, to keep them well lubricated. Using artificial tears once or several times a day may be all you need to control the condition.

Other non-prescription products include gels, gel inserts and ointments.

Ointments provide longer lasting effect but can cloud your vision, and therefore should be used before bedtime.

On the other hand, eye drops do not interfere with your vision and can be used regularly. Eye drops can be used at any time and won't interfere with your vision.

8 Risks and Complications

Risk factors for dry eyes include:

  • Age - being older than 50.
  • Being a woman- due to hormonal changes.
  • Lower intake of vitamin A.
  • Low intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Wearing contact lenses.
  • Common eye infections.
  • Occupation that includes driving and long looking at the screen.
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