Nearly everyone has a bout of dry eyes on occasion. While acute dry eye is a temporary inconvenience, chronic dry eye syndrome is a serious medical condition.
Under normal circumstances, the front surface of the eye is protected by a consistent tear film made of three distinct layers: a water layer, a mucus layer and an oil layer. All three of the substances must be present in the right balance to create a properly hydrating, lubricating and nourishing film for the cornea and sclera (“white”) of the eye.
When that balance is disrupted, it causes dry eye symptoms, including redness, pain, itching, blurry vision and other challenges.
Keep reading to learn about the causes of dry eye, potential implications and helpful treatments available at an eye doctor near you.
What Causes Dry Eye
There are several factors and triggers that can disturb the delicate balance of our tear film, causing dry eye. As we age, that balance can break down naturally. Women and people who wear contact lenses are also at increased risk. Other common causes include:
High winds, pollution and extremely dry air (common during a Minnesota winter), can cause your tear film to evaporate too quickly. Allergens and indoor air quality at work or home can also compromise normal tear function.
Illness and Disease
Certain diseases such as Sjogren’s syndrome and other auto-immune diseases, thyroid disease and connective tissue disorders can cause chronic dryness of the eyes and mucous membranes. Diabetes, chronic allergies and vitamin A deficiency can also increase the risk for developing dry eye syndrome.
Medical Side Effects
Many medications, from blood pressure medicines and birth control pills to antihistamines, can have a drying effect on the tissues, including the eyes. Chronic dry eye syndrome can also develop after ophthalmic surgery.
Lifestyle and Work Habits
Most people spend several hours a day looking at computer monitors or mobile device screens for school or work, which means you don’t blink as frequently. Since blinking triggers tear formation, computer users often suffer from dry eyes. Long-term consequences of this continual situation leads to oil gland blockages, further exacerbating dry eye disease.
What Are Possible Complications
While dry eye syndrome carries a favorable prognosis – most people only deal with discomfort – there is concern for serious complications if not properly treated. Chronic dry eyes can lead to inflammation, corneal abrasion and ulcers. In severe cases, vision loss may occur.
Even the discomfort associated with dry eyes warrants the correct attention, as it can decrease quality of life and make it difficult to perform normal daily functions.
What Dry Eye Treatments and Prevention are Available
When your eye doctor identifies the cause and severity of your dry eye symptoms they can direct you to a variety of lifestyle changes or appropriate treatment options near you.
- Take frequent breaks when using screens
- Add moisture to the air using a humidifier at home and/or work
- Clean and change your contact lenses as directed
- Wear sunglasses and protective lenses to protect your eyes from wind, dust and pollution
- Lumenis IPL is a treatment for dry eyes caused by skin, oil gland and eyelid inflammation. It uses targeted pulses of light that trigger your body’s natural healing process.
- LipiFlow is a heat treatment that helps relieve dry eyes by removing blockages caused by meibomian gland dysfunction.
- Your eye doctor may also recommend OTC or prescription eye drops to help your eyes produce more tears and increase lubrication to reduce your symptoms.
Visit A Trusted Local Eye Doctor
Complete Eye Care of Medina is staffed by experienced, compassionate eye doctors who take your dry eye concerns seriously. We provide comprehensive eye exams to get to the root cause of your concerns, and offer leading treatments to get you back to living comfortably and seeing clearly. Schedule an appointment at CEC today.