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Why Are My Eyes Dry?

Dry eye syndrome is a common eye condition affecting millions of people each year. And this is only increasing with the amount of time we spend on screens nowadays!


Dry eye symptoms can range from a mild scratchy sensation to debilitating discomfort. Sometimes you might even experience watery eyes (oxymoron, we know!) due to poor tear quality (not quantity).


If it’s not addressed, dry eye syndrome may lead to other eye issues.


This article will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options to help you better manage this eye condition.




What Is Dry Eye?


Dry eye (also known as dry eye syndrome) is a condition where the eyes struggle to produce adequate, high-quality tears for lubrication. Essentially, in this condition, the tears either fall short in quantity or quality.


Tears do far more than show sorrow! They play a vital role in maintaining your eye's health by creating a shield against dust, dirt and bacteria. Tears ensuring clear vision and preventing potential harm. However, in cases of dry eye syndrome, this protective film is lacking.


The absence of an adequate tear film can lead to discomfort and, if neglected, pose risks of inflammation or infection. It's crucial to recognise the signs and seek appropriate treatment to preserve eye health and comfort.


Symptoms


  • Eye pain, burning, or redness.

  • Itchy eyes.

  • Feeling like there's sand or dirt in your eyes.

  • Blurry vision.

  • Eyes that feel tired after reading/screen use.

  • Trouble wearing contact lenses.

  • Watery eyes (usually worse in wind/cold).

  • Crustiness.

  • Sensitivity to light.




Types of Dry Eye


Tears are made up of three layers - oil, water and mucous. Dry eye can manifest in temporary episodes or persist chronically. Within chronic dry eye cases, two primary types exist:



Aqueous Deficient Dry Eye


This variant of dry eye arises when there is a reduction in the amount of tears produced by the lacrimal glands. Aqueous deficient dry eye only accounts for 10% of dry eyes.


Evaporative Dry Eye


In the most common scenario, the trouble arises due to quality, not quantity, of tears. The meibomian glands, situated within the eyelids, are responsible for creating the oil layer of your tears. When these glands don't work as they should, your tears evaporate faster. This causes a feeling of dryness, which prompts the eyes to make more tears (and that's when your eyes become watery!).


Evaporative dry eye is also known as 'meibomian gland dysfunction' or 'posterior blepharitis'.



Identifying the specific type of dry eye is pivotal in tailoring an effective treatment plan, as interventions differ based on the cause. Consulting with an eyecare professional can provide clarity and strategies to alleviate discomfort.



What Causes Dry Eye?


As we’ve mentioned, dry eye syndrome is caused by poor quality or quantity of tears. There are multiple causes that can lead to this, including:

  • Certain medications (such as some allergy medications or antidepressants).

  • Environmental factors (such as wind, smoke, or dry climates).

  • Allergies.

  • Eye conditions.

  • Infrequent blinking (which may occur if you spend prolonged periods on a screen).

  • Vitamin A deficiency.

Some individuals have a higher risk of developing dry eye:

  • Over 50s.

  • Contact lens wearers.

  • People with certain medical conditions (such as Sjogren’s syndrome or lupus).

  • People who have had eye surgery.

  • Smokers or people who are regularly in contact with second-hand smoke.

  • Women (due to hormone changes).





Treatment

Although there is no ultimate cure, dry eye syndrome is manageable and treatable. It’s best to speak to your optometrist if you think you have dry eye syndrome. They can help you choose the most effective action to take.


Treatment plans can include:

  • Eye drops.

  • Ointments.

  • Tear duct plugs (punctal plugs).

  • Eyelid hygiene.

  • Supplements.

  • Lifestyle changes.

  • Antibiotics.


Advice to avoid dry eye symptoms:

  • Wear glasses (or sunglasses) with side shields to protect your eyes from the wind when you're outside.

  • When you're inside, stay out of the breeze created by fans/air conditioning.

  • Ensure you're getting enough Omega 3 in your diet.

  • Don't smoke and avoid smoky environments.

  • Clean your eyelids regularly using a eye cleanser (e.g. Blephasol Duo).


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