What Is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye is an extremely common condition affecting over 30 million Americans. It refers to the condition in which a person doesn't produce enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining healthy clear vision by providing lubrication, reducing the risk of eye infection, washing away foreign matter in the eye, and keeping the surface of the eyes smooth and clear.
Causes & Risk Factors
Dry eyes can occur when:
- A Person Produces An Inadequate Amount Of Tears: Tears are produced by several glands in and around the eyelids. When the normal amount of tear production decreases or tears evaporates too quickly from the eyes, symptoms of dry eye can develop.
- A Person Produces A Poor Quality Of Tears: Tears are made up of three layers, oil, water, and mucus, which protect and nourish the front surface of the eye. If the tears evaporate too quickly or do not spread evenly over the cornea due to deficiencies with any of the three tear layers, dry eye symptoms can develop.
Dry eyes can develop for many reasons, including:
- Age: Dry eyes are a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
- Gender: Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by the use of oral contraceptives, pregnancy, or menopause.
- Medications: Certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants, can reduce tear production.
- Medical conditions: People with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes.
- Environmental conditions: Exposure to smoke, wind, and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms.
- Screen Use: We blink less often when using screens such as computers or phones. Failure to blink regularly can contribute to the drying of the eyes.
- Other factors: Long-term use of contact lenses, or Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can decrease tear production and contribute to dry eyes.
Advanced dry eyes may damage the front surface of the eye and impair vision.
- Excessive Tearing
- Feelings of scratchiness, soreness, or burning sensations
- Feeling like somethings in the eye
- Red eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty wearing contacts
- Blurry Vision
Dry eyes can be diagnosed through a comprehensive eye exam. Testing will include:
- External examination of the eye, including lid structure and blink dynamics
- Evaluation of the eyelids and cornea using bright light and magnification
- Measurement of the quantity and quality of tears for any abnormalities
- Patient history to determine any general health problems, medications, or environmental factors that may be contributing to dry eyes
With the information obtained from testing, your eye doctor can determine if you have dry eyes and advise you on treatment options.