Symptoms and Causes of Dry Eyes

February 8, 2019

Our eyes are an essential tool that we rely on heavily throughout our lives, but we often don’t spend the necessary time taking care of them. Instead, we find ourselves more concerned with whether or not we can see clearly, and often times overlook small but important indicators that our eyes are not as healthy as they should be. There are many different problems and conditions that can affect the health of our eyes. Left untreated, many of these can eventually compromise our vision. One of the most common eye problems diagnosed by optometrists in White Plains, NY is a condition known as ‘Dry Eyes’.
 

What are Dry Eyes?

While you may think that dry eyes are just a symptom, it is also a condition in its own right which is characterized by the main symptom which it describes. If you have ever found that it feels difficult to blink, your eyes feel scratchy, dry and irritated, or that it seems like there is something in them when realistically there is nothing there, then you may have experienced an episode of dry eyes.

 

Causes of Dry Eyes

Dry eyes occur as a result of a problem with a tiny bodily feature known as the lacrimal gland. The lacrimal gland is responsible for producing the constant fine film of tears that covers our eyes and keeps them moist and mobile. This tear film is not just water, but instead a perfectly balanced combination of vital oils, proteins and antibodies that ensure our eyes are healthy and working as they should.

In some patients who develop dry eyes, the cause of their condition is a problem with the lacrimal gland. This is often an age-related issue, and the older we get, the more likely it is that the lacrimal gland, along with many other body systems, becomes less effective. When the lacrimal gland is affected, it may either over-produce tears for a short time to over-compensate, or simply stop working as it should.

Another common cause of dry eyes is taking certain medications. All medications have side effects, some more serious than others. There are some medications that are well known for causing dry eyes. In these instances, it may be possible for you to change to another drug that doesn’t have this side effect.

Other medical reasons why a patient might develop dry eyes include:

  • Menopaus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Collagen vascular diseases 
  • Sjögren’s Syndrome
  • Injury/trauma to the eyes
 

Screen time and dry eyes

Be it a laptop, a computer, a tablet or a smartphone, we spend more time looking at screens than ever before. Often these screens are just a few centimeters or so from our nose, and this has been attributed to the development of myopia – or near-sightedness. However, screen use has also been linked to an increase in the number of patients being diagnosed with dry eyes. This is because when you look at a screen, you blink much less, and this causes the eye to dry out. By blinking more, you can reduce the effects of dry eyes.
 

Symptoms of Dry Eyes

By far the most obvious symptom of this condition is a feeling like your eyes are dry and uncomfortable. Other indicators of dry eyes syndrome include:

  • Stinging/burning
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes
  • Alternating between excessive tear production and very dry eyes
  • Scratchiness and soreness
  • Heavy eyelids that can make you feel tired even when you have had a reasonable amount of rest
  • Discharge for the eyes
  • Struggling to pay close visual attention to things such as a screen, a book or a recreational activity such as sewing or woodworking
  • Problems with wearing contact lenses due to difficulty placing and removing them
 

Can Dry Eyes be treated?

Fortunately, it can be fairly simple to treat dry eyes and alleviate your symptoms. Eye drops are the simplest and often most effective solution, and these will be prescribed for you. However, you might also be prescribed other topical treatments such as gels or lotions, and again, these should be used as directed.

Your optometrist or optician will be happy to talk through the different treatment options with you and together you can decide which is most suitable to alleviate your symptoms.

If you would like more information about the symptoms and causes of dry eyes, or if you would like to arrange an appointment for an assessment by our experienced optometrist in White Plains, NY, please do not hesitate to call Family Vision Care Associate today at (914) 948-0304.

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