Healthy eyes are always enclosed by a constant tear film. This constant tear film keeps the eyes moist and helps them to maintain a clear vision. This film protects your eyes from primary infection and lubricates them. When your eyelid blinks it clears the debris from your eyes and any foreign particle in your eyes is removed by the extra tears formed.
Decrease in the production of tears from the tear glands results in the destabilization of the tear film. This imbalance in the tear film causes dry eyes which create discomfort, irritation and blurred vision. Generally adults above the age of 40 experience dry eyes symptoms.
Causes of Dry Eyes
Tears are not just water, they are a complex combination of water, proteins, fatty oils, electrolytes, bacteria-fighting material and various cell growth factors. This mixture smoothens and clears the eye surface. Tears are also helpful in good vision. The main causes of dry eyes could be improper production of tears from the tear glands, imbalance in the composition of the tears or some environmental factors.
- Basically, tear film is made up of three layers: mucus, water and oil. Any imbalance in one of these layers may lead to dry eyes
- Decrease in the tear production may be due to age factor, hormonal changes, damage to the tear gland or due to some medications
- Poor eyelid functioning causes improper spreading of the tears
- Some prescribed medicines or over the counter medicines may also cause dry eyes
- Exposure of the eyes to drying environmental conditions like dry climate, sun, wind or high altitude
- Continuous work which requires extreme visual focus like reading, driving or working at the computer decrease the blinking rate of the eyes
- Some types of eye allergies may also cause dry eyes
Symptoms of Dry Eyes
Usually both eyes are affected by dry eyes. Dry eyes symptoms include:
- Burning, scratchy or stinging sensation in the eyes
- Continuous feeling of the presence of a foreign particle in the eyes
- Increased irritation in the eyes due to wind or smoke
- Increased sensitivity towards light
- Blurred vision
- Increased eye fatigue even after short period of reading
- Sometimes stringy mucus is also observed in or around the eyes
- Trouble wearing contact lenses
Treatment for Dry Eyes
The main objective of the dry eyes treatment is to keep the eyes moist and restore the normal tear production. Successful dry eyes treatment starts with a cautious diagnosis of the factors causing the symptoms.
- If there is a problem in the eyelid movement like incomplete blink, then the ophthalmologist may go for a plastic surgery of the eyelids.
- If the eyelids are inflamed because of blepharitis, then the doctor may suggest regular cleaning of the eyelids with diluted cleansing solution. The doctor may also prescribe antibiotic ointment or drops.
- The doctor may also prescribe some artificial tear drops. These drops are to be used before you start an activity which elevates your symptoms. You can use these lubricating drops several times a day to get relief from the irritation.
- There are some ointments which ensure lubrication but these ointments may blur your vision hence it is better to use these ointments during bedtime.
The doctor may also suggest methods that would help you to restore the tear formation naturally. These methods may include plugging of the tear ducts with small silicone plug.
Prevention of Dry Eyes
You can prevent dry eyes by following the dry eyes prevention tips given below.
- Keep blinking your eyes repeatedly so as to keep your eyes moist as well as to spread tears evenly.
- Take small breaks from the tasks which require intense visual attention.
- After each hour’s work keep your eyelids closed for several seconds. This would help in resting your eyes.
- Avoid directing air conditioners, car heaters or hair dryers towards your eyes.
- Use wraparound type of glasses or goggles during swimming or in windy weather.
- Try to maintain your home humidity level between 30 to 50% during winters.
- Try to avoid rubbing your eyes as it may increase the irritation. Instead of rubbing, wash your eyes with clean water.
Dry eyes can cause irritation and discomfort. To overcome this condition, please read our related article Home Remedies for Dry Eyes in the Morning