Dry eye is a common eye condition and often gets worse during the winter when there is less humidity and we spend more time indoors…with the heat on.
Oxygen and nutrients are in tears and they continually bathe our eyes in a nourishing lubricant that contains water, oils, and mucus for even spreading on the surface of the eyes. There is also a little salt (sodium) in our tears. The salt content of tears is about the same as the salt content in blood plasma. Salt is necessary for the nerves, muscles, and overall fluid balance.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
It is either an inadequate production of tear film or poor quality of one or more of the three layers of tear film—water, oil, mucus.
The eyes react to a lack of moisture from tear film with symptoms such as:
- Redness, burning, or itching
- Sensation of having something in your eyes
- Swollen eyelids
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Blurred vision
- Sensitivity to light
- Overtired eyes
Is it Only Dry Eyes?
Most likely yes, but having a lot of these symptoms could also be an indication of other eye diseases. For that reason, and if you have any doubts, seek the diagnosis of an eye doctor.
Age: Dry eyes can be a natural part of aging.
Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eyes. This could be caused by hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, oral contraceptives, or menopause.
Medications: Some medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants, can reduce tear production. If this is the cause of your dry eye, your doctor can suggest changes to your medications that may help.
Environmental conditions: Expose to smoke, wind, and dry climates can increase tear evaporation and lead to dry eyes. Failure to blink regularly when staring at a computer screen can be a cause of dry eyes.
Medical conditions: Rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems can have dry eye symptoms. Inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), or inflammation of the surface of the eye, or an inward or outward turning eyelid can also cause dry eyes.
Other factors: Long-term use of contact lenses, and refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and cause dry eyes.
Adding tears: Mild cases of dry eye can usually be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions. These solutions can be used as often as needed to supplement natural tears. Preservative-free artificial tears are recommended because the preservative can often irritate already dry eyes.
Conserving tears: Temporarily blocking tear ducts with silicone plugs can help retain tears in the eyes longer.
Increasing tear production: Some prescription eye drops can increase tear production. Taking an omega-3 supplement and eating foods rich in omega-3 may also help some people increase tear production.
Comprehensive Eye Exam
Your eye doctor can check for dry eyes as part of a comprehensive dilated eye exam. There are also tests that determine how quickly your eyes make tears, and how long your tear film lasts after each blink. If another health condition is causing your dry eyes, treating that condition may improve your dry eye symptoms.
If you have dry eyes, there are many options for keeping your eyes lubricated, healthy, and comfortable.