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Dry Eye: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Dry Eye: Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears are not making adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for many reasons. For example, dry eyes may occur if you are not producing enough tears or if you produce poor-quality tears.

Dry eyes feel uncomfortable, your eyes may sting or burn. Usually dry eyes can be situational, for example during flights, in air conditioning, while riding a bike or spending a lot of time looking at computers screens, iPads, phones and any other devices, including hours of video games.

Treatments for dry eyes can ease symptoms and make the eyes feel comfortable again. These treatments can include lifestyle changes and spray or eye drop treatments.

Symptoms of Dry Eye

Symptoms include:

• A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
• Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
• Sensitivity to light
• Eye redness
• A sensation of having something in your eyes
• Difficulty wearing contact lenses
• Difficulty with night-time driving
• Watery eyes, which is the body's response to the irritation of dry eyes
• Blurred vision or eye fatigue

Causes of Dry Eye

Dry eyes are caused by a lack of adequate tears. Your tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. This mixture helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear and helps protect your eyes from infection.

For some people, the cause of dry eyes is decreased tear production. For others it's increased tear evaporation and an imbalance in the makeup of your tears.

Tear Evaporation

Dry eyes can occur when you're unable to produce enough tears. Common causes of decreased tear production are:

• Aging
• Certain medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency
• Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson's disease
• Laser eye surgery, though symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary
• Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation
• Wind, smoke or dry air
• Blinking less often, which tends to occur when you're concentrating, for example, while reading, driving or working at a computer
• Eyelid problems, such as out-turning of the lids and in-turning of the lids

Imbalance in Tear Composition

The tear film has three basic layers: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes. For example, the oil film produced by small glands on the edge of your eyelids might become clogged. Blocked meibomian glands are more common in people with inflammation along the edge of their eyelids, rosacea or other skin disorders.

Risk Factors

Factors that make it more likely that you'll experience dry eyes include:

• Being older than 50, as tear production tends to diminish as you get older.
• A lack of tears is more common in women, especially if they experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause.
• Eating a diet that is low in vitamin A, which is found in liver, carrots and broccoli, or low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils.
• Wearing contact lenses.

Complications

People who have dry eyes may experience these complications:

Eye infections. Your tears protect the surface of your eyes from infection. Without adequate tears, you may have an increased risk of eye infection.
Damage to the surface of your eyes. If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems.
Decreased quality of life. Dry eyes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading.

Prevention

If you experience dry eyes, pay attention to the situations that are most likely to cause your symptoms. We suggest avoiding these situations, for instance:

Air blowing in your eyes. Don't direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes.• Air Moisture. In winter, a humidifier can add moisture to dry indoor air.
Wraparound sunglasses or other protective eye wear. Safety shields can be added to the tops and sides of eyeglasses to block wind and dry air.
Eye breaks during long tasks. If you're reading or performing tasks that require visual concentration, take periodic eye breaks. Close your eyes for a few minutes, blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly over your eyes.
Your environment. The air at high altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes can be extremely dry. When spending time in such an environment, frequently close your eyes for a few minutes at a time to minimise evaporation of your tears.
Computer screen level. If your computer screen is above eye level, you'll open your eyes wider to view the screen. Position your computer screen below eye level so that you won't open your eyes as wide. This may help slow the evaporation of your tears between eye blinks.
Smoking. If you smoke, we encourage giving up. If you don't smoke, stay away from people who do. Even passive smoking can worsen dry eyes symptoms.
Use artificial tears regularly. Use TearsAgain Spray when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated at all times. TearsAgain Eye Spray instantly soothes and provides relief to dry, irritated eyes. Easy to use and gentle on sensitive eyes.