Dry Eye Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Why You Get Dry Eyes?

 

Dry eyes is an extremely common symptom that affects around 20% of Australian adults. Up to 50% of office workers report dry eye symptoms due to time spent in the air-conditioned environment, often in front of a computer. As much as 60% of people over 50 years of age have at least one dry eye symptom.

It is like the uncomfortable, scratchy feeling that you may get in your eyes after staring at the computer screen for a long time without blinking. You can get the gritty feeling common to dry eye sufferers, when you stare or focus on something and forget to blink as often as you should.

Almost everyone will have dry eyes at some point in their life. Dry eyes are also a symptom associated with conditions such as: diabetes; rheumatoid arthritis; auto-immune disease and when taking certain medications like anti-histamines, anti-depressants and even the pill. It's also common in older people as well as during menopause and pregnancy.

Before we go further, let’s understand a little bit more about dry eyes and how it affects you.

 

  • Dry eyes causes

What Causes Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes are caused by a variety of things that can disrupt your eye's lubricant or tears, which keep it moist at all times. As your tear film has three layers: oils; fluid and mucus, an issue with any one of these can cause dry eyes. The lack of lubrication is what causes that uncomfortable gritty feeling that we associate with dry eyes. 

There are many reasons that your eyes don’t produce enough tears, but the most common ones are:

  • Age
  • Certain eye problems like allergies and blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids) often have dry eyes as a symptom
  • Spending long periods in front of screens is a common cause of dry eyes
  • Exposure to windy conditions, air-conditioning or heating can dry your eyes
  • Wearing contact lenses for an extended period of time
  • As a side effect of certain medications

Symptoms Of Dry Eye Syndrome

You may experience it slightly differently to other people, so here is a simple list of symptoms that explains how dry eyes may affect you.
 

  • Symptoms Of Dry Eyes
  • Red or inflamed (puffy) eyes 
  • A burning sensation on the surface of the eye
  • Fatigued eyes, eyes that feel as if they want to stay closed for long periods of time
  • Consistent itchiness
  • The eye frequently feels overly dry
  • Blurred vision, objects appear to be out of focus
  • Photophobia, a sensitivity to bright light
  • Watering eyes, ducts can overproduce tears, but they do not stay long enough to correct the feeling of dryness
  • A gritty uncomfortable sensation, when it feels like you have something in your eye, even though there is nothing there

Dangers of Dry Eye

 

When ignored, the consequences of dry eye can be:

  • Eye infections, as the tears are anti-bacterial any decrease raises the risk of infection
  • Damage to the eye's surface, including scarring on the surface of the eye or intense inflammation (swelling).

Certain professions make dry eye symptoms difficult to avoid. Vets are constantly exposed to animal hair and allergans. Surgeons may need to hold their line of sight without blinking.  Working in front of a computer all day means you should take frequent breaks to avoid the onset of dry eye.

 

  • How to cure dry eyes

How To Treat Dry Eyes

When looking at treatment for dry eyes, it is important to consider two distinct options; prevention and treatment. If you want to avoid dry eyes, then it would be better to focus on preventing dry eyes through a few simple techniques.

  • Avoid wind blowing in your eyes. Air-con, fans, heaters can all direct a stream of drying air to your eyes. Wrap-around glasses and sunglasses can help.
  • Check if you need specific computer glasses for your digital devices, this may help to prevent dry eyes that result from staring to try and overcome a simple eye correction. Eyezen reduce eye discomfort for people under 40 years who need a little help focusing on their digital devices. 
  • Take regular breaks when working on your computer or other demanding tasks, to rest your eyes for a few minutes.
  • Blink and squeeze exercises can help dry eyes. Lightly close your eyelids then squeeze them shut with strength. Hold this for 2 to 5 seconds and release the squeeze while keeping your eyelids closed. The gently open your eyes. Do this at least 5 times a day or as often as you remember to help increase your blinking, which automatically produces tears in your eyes.

If you’re already suffering from dry eyes there are treatment options to consider to give you some much-needed relief.

  • Artificial tears that can be bought over the counter lubricate the eye in a natural way, without medication. Available at most optometrists and pharmacies they are a simple and effective way to provide relief. In the last few years hypotonic drops have grown in use, these reduce the "saltiness" of the tears
  • Prescription eye drops can be prescribed by your optometrist or ophthalmologist, in addition to artificial tears. These may include: cyclosporine and certain types of steroid drops among others
  • Meibomian gland expression. The openings of these glands, located at the base of the eyelashes, release oils that are critical to stop the tears evaporating. If they are blocked the oil can't be released. There are a number of ways to unclog them ranging from warm compresses and manual pressure to proprietary equipment like Lipiflow®
  • Punctal plugs are small silicone plugs that are inserted into the puncta, (small holes in the corners of the eyelids where the tears drain into our nose). Once plugged more tears remain on the eye's surface.
  • Intense pulse light treats inflamed blood vessels along the edges of the eyelids. Relieving these swollen vessels often reduces dry eye symptoms associated with ocular rosacea and blepharitis. Usually 4 - 6 treatments are required.
  • Dietary changes can also help treat dry eyes. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon and almonds, plus ensuring you drink plenty of water can also reduce symptoms  more invasive and extreme measure would be to have corrective surgery. This is for extreme cases and should not be considered without consulting a medical professional.

If you’d like to find out more about preventing dry eyes or treating the condition, we recommend visiting your nearest optometrist to enquire about your best option.

Suffering from dry eyes?

Visit your nearest optical store today to learn about the solutions available to you

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