We all know that feeling of coming home after a long day and having sore, dry eyes from trying to keep our eyes open all day to get some work done. But having dry eyes every once in a while usually isn’t a huge problem. What’s more concerning is when this dry eye symptom lasts for days or months at a time, causing a significant amount of discomfort and most likely distracting you from your work and doing the things you love. This is known as chronic dry eye. But dry eye can lead to a lot more than just discomfort, it can be a serious condition if it’s not treated properly. In this blog, we’re going to talk a little bit about what causes dry eye and why you should seek treatment for it immediately.
Causes of dry eye
There is really only one thing that can result in dry eye and that is your eye doesn’t have enough quality tears to keep it lubricated and nourished. These tears are absolutely essential for maintaining the front surface of your eye as well as allowing you to blink and see properly. Every time you blink your eye, tears are spread across the cornea in order to clean the eye and prevent infection.
Dry eye usually occurs when your eye isn’t producing an adequate amount of tears or there is an imbalance in the way it is drained. Typically, dry eye may result if you haven’t been blinking enough to spread these tears across your eye, or you’ve been exposed to a lot of wind that has removed a lot of tears from your eye. These are typically not serious conditions unless they persist more than a few days.
Amount of tears
Tears are made from glands around the eyelids. There are a number of things that can cause tear production to decrease. And although your tear glands may still be producing tears, it may not be enough to keep the eyes healthy.
Quality of tears
There are three things that tears are made up of: water, oil, and mucus. If any one of these is lacking or missing, you may experience dry eye. Water helps to moisten the eye while the mucus spreads it over the surface of the eye and the oil prevents it from evaporating. When the water layer is not adequate, this is referred to as dry eye syndrome or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).
Decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medication and antidepressants are known to cause reduced tear production and contribute to dry eye.
Your environment can have a huge impact on the onset of dry eye. If you have been exposed to dry air, smoke, wind, you may experience dry eye. Although these are typically temporary causes, they can make existing dry eye symptoms even worse.
Women who are pregnant may be more likely to develop dry eye due to hormonal changes in addition to women who use oral contraceptives.
Age is a major contributor to dry eye. People over the age of 65 are more likely to experience dry eye because their bodies are naturally less capable of producing tears effectively.
There are several other factors that can result in dry eye like medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
Why you should seek treatment
According to TheraLife, around 16 million people have chronic dry eye syndrome in the United States. Symptoms of dry eye can be far more than simple discomfort, they can prevent you from living your daily life the way you did with healthy eyes. Below are just a few of the symptoms you’ll experience with dry eye.
When your eye isn’t lubricated, blinking will begin to irritate the surface of the eye causing it to turn red, burn, or itch. It can be difficult to concentrate on work that you need to get done or enjoy your day when there is constant pain or itchiness in the eyes.
If the issue is with a lack of balance in tear production, you might also experience periods of excess tearing. This can be a huge annoyance having your eyes constantly going from very dry to very moist at a moment’s notice.
Even if you have otherwise great vision, dry eye can result in blurred vision due to either having an uneven layer of tears over the eyes or a lack of tears altogether. If you already have poor vision, dry eye could make your symptoms worse.
Aside from difficulty performing normal everyday tasks, dry eye can result in periodic eye infections. Since the fluid on the surface of your eye defends it from bacteria, eye infections will be more prominent and more serious. The surface of the eye can also become damaged due to inflammation, abrasion of the cornea, and corneal ulcers.
Dry eye is treatable by a certified ophthalmologist and could include a number of different options depending on the patient’s specific condition and how serious it is. Dry eye symptoms rarely get better on their own, especially in old age. and The sooner a patient receives adequate treatment, the more likely they will be to avoid long-term side-effects like eye infections or eye damage.
There are several ways of treating dry eye by either adding tears, conserving them, increasing their production, or treating the inflammation on either the eyelids or on the ocular surface. Your ophthalmologist will determine what treatment is needed and what will restore your eyes to their normal condition as quickly as possible.
Adding tears may be beneficial for patients who are experiencing mild dry eye cases. Over-the-counter tear solutions can be used as needed to relieve the symptoms of dry eye. There are also a number of medications like restasis that can be used to increase the production of tears in the eyes. Punctal plugs can be inserted into tear ducts to make more of your natural tears available to wet the eye.
These are just a few of the main ways dry eye is treated. By scheduling an eye appointment, your ophthalmologist will examine your eyes and ask you any questions necessary to determine exactly what is causing your dry eye symptoms. In most cases, dry eye can be treated relatively easily, especially if it’s caused by environmental factors.
Round Rock Eye Consultants are your Top Rated Local® Ophthalmologists in Round Rock and the surrounding area. If you’re experiencing dry eye, don’t wait to seek treatment. Although dry eye may seem like a temporary issue, it will leave your eyes susceptible to more long-term issues like infection and permanent eye damage. Contact us today to schedule an eye appointment.