Dry Eyes

What is Chronic Dry Eye or Dry Eyes Syndrome?

Dry Eyes, is a condition many people confront. It is caused when the tears produced by the eyes are insufficient in moisture, lubrication, and other features that help keep the eyes remain protected. Dry eyes may also be stimulated by environmental aspects such as weather that irritate the eye and dry up tears. People with dry eyes often feel discomfort in a variety of forms including irritation, inflammation, or the feeling of something in the eye. People with Chronic Dry Eyes are diagnosed by a doctor and repeatedly have a decrease in the amount of tear creation due to obstruction or just a minimization in tears. People with chronic dry eyes tend to have the uncomfortable feelings and symptoms for a longer period of time where as dry eyes for a person who works on a computer frequently maybe more short term. Treatments for minor degrees of dry eyes may not be as efficacious for chronic dry eyes because of the deviating causes.

How Do Tears Prevent Dry Eyes?

Tears are a major protective agent for the eyes. Tears not only wash away dust from the eyes, but also soothe the eyes, provide oxygen and nutrients to the cornea, as well as help defend against eye infections by removing microorganisms that can colonize in the eyes. Tears are of composed of three distinctive layers. The outer lipid section consists of an oily film that counters evaporation and keeps the eye moistened. The middle region is made of mostly water that moisturizes the eyes and some nutrients and proteins that assist in limiting eye infections. The inner coating contains mucous that allows the tear film to spread and reduces evaporation from the eye. Each layer is vital to the health of the eyes and different parts of the eye add to the tears which can lead to any number of possible problems like shortage of nutrients or mucous. It also shows that dry eyes are more likely if there is a depletion of tears due to reduction of generation because of age or by weather issues like windy days which can dry out tears quickly. The importance of tears is also shown by all the over the counter medication that uses eye drops, ointments, or oral capsules designed to either keep the eye moisturized or copy the role of tears. TheraTears™ is an example of manufactured teardrops whose role is to mimic the role of tears.

What is the Cause of Dry Eyes?

Dry Eyes can be caused by several factors which include those relating to less tears and less moisture within the eyes. A common cause is aging. As we age we create less productive tears which mean less moisture to the eyes. These tears might also evaporate swiftly. Women approaching menopause especially face dry eyes due to the increase in hormones. Another factor is that some people are not able to generate as much natural tears as needed whether it is from aging, blockage of tear ducts, or from medication that leads to less yielding of tears. This problem oftentimes leads to chronic dry eyes as the person is not able to manufacture tears and the eyes are not sufficiently lubricated. Tears evaporate rapidly, and the eyes are not cleaned properly. Environmental factors can also play a factor in eyes drying up. Examples include dusty air, dry or windy weather, or fumes like cigarette smoke which can evaporate tears much speedily or hamper their effectiveness. This is especially a cause for dry eyes in contact lens wearers as the lenses absorb lubrication and the tear film. Contact lens wearers usually experience dry eyes because the contacts seems to dry out the eyes faster. Numerous contact lens wears regularly require rewetting drops or contact lenses that retain more moisture. Working or entertainment can also cause dry eyes. People who watch TV, use a laptop, or sew for a longer duration may cause eye strain and dry eyes. This is due to straining of the eyes and infrequent blinking and tear formulation. Personal conditions may also cause dry eyes. A deficiency in vitamin A, some medications, and some diseases may also lead to dry eyes. Inadequate sleep or insomnia can also cause dry eyes, as the eyes are not allowed to rest and are apt to dry up faster.

Picture of Dry Eyes

Dry Eyes Symptoms

Multiple symptoms of dry eyes are persistent throughout the extensive causes. Old age and extreme computer use all can result in various similar symptoms. Discomforts in the eyes which can range from a light pain to a grainy, scratchy feeling in the eyes are all possible. The eyes may also become itchy, red, or tears may start to flood the eyes. Excessive tears are not necessarily good as it can mean the eyes are trying to over compensate a lack of tear production and can represent dry eyes. People with dry eyes will generally experience strain when using the eyes on focusing tasks like watching the TV, knitting, and other activities.

  • Unpleasantness in the eyes or a feeling of presence of foreign object in the eyes is a symptom.
  • Itchiness, Redness, and excessive tearing without relief can all occur
  • Discomfort after periods of eye strain like watching TV, reading, data processing, sewing, etc are possible occurrences.

Dry Eye Testing

Testing for dry eyes can be performed through several methods. One of the simplest, Schirmer’s test, is performed by placing a small piece of filter paper inside the lower part of the eyelids. The eyes are closed for a few minutes and taken out to measure the amount of tear production. The Schirmer’s test can determine if there is difficulty in tear production or if the tears are not efficient in maintaining eye health. Fluorescein eye drops may also be used to determine tear production. The uncommon eye drops contain a dye that can be traced with a special light as it is washed out of the eyes by the tears. This method can detect for any blocking or early evaporation of tears. Tears may also be examined to see if they contain enough moisture, proteins, and other materials.

Dry Eyes Treatment Options

Dry Eyes Treatments will vary depending on the level of dry eye syndrome. Most people can use artificial tears or similar eye drops or ointments that simulate the action of tears. These eye drops vary from temporary relief ones that adhere to the eyes and preserve for long term, some with preservatives and others without. These OTC medications can relieve many of the symptoms and discomforts caused by dry eyes. There are also oral capsules that can help the eyes maintain tear production and guard against the staving of tear loss. It is best to ask an eye care professional which one is better suited for your dry eyes syndrome. Some are sold over the counter and trying out which one works best for you is a resolution. A new medication is RESTASIS® Ophthalmic Emulsion. This FDA approved prescription eye drop supports the eyes to produce more natural tears which are great for dry eyes evoked by aging and other agents that cause deficient tear production. Another solution without the use of eye drops is the use of punctual plugs. These plugs block the drainage of tears and conserve them in the eyes longer. There are temporary and permanent plugs. They are for the most part painlessly inserted and can be removed by an eye care professional. Sealing of the drainage can also be done surgically. This method prevents tears from draining from the eyes and keeps the eyes moisturized. Contact lens wearers will often find eye drops effective especially if the lenses are removed prior to adding the rewetting drops. Primarily strenuous activities on the eyes often require a break or lots of blinking to bolster the prevention of dry eyes.

  • Drink plenty of water to keep the body moisturized.
  • Minimize periods in certain weather conditions like windy and dry weather.
  • Protect the eyes from harsh weather conditions like wind and dust.
  • Make sure medication is not causing dry eyes.
  • Eat healthy food containing eye nutrients especially with vitamin A, C, and E and if need be take supplements containing flax seed and Omega-3 fatty acids.
  • When watching TV, using the computer or other eye straining activities, take frequent breaks and blink often.
  • People who wear contact lenses should take them out and keep eyes well hydrated.
  • Get plenty of sleep to keep eyes healthy.
This article was last updated on 01/2013