Despite your mood, happy or sad, your eyes are always full of tears. Tears provide moisture and lubrication so that you can see and move your eyes comfortably. But did you know that the eyes are a part of the immune system? That’s right! Tears contain not only water and oil for lubrication, but also mucous and antibodies to keep bacteria and viruses at bay.
If your tear ducts or glands begin to malfunction, an imbalance occurs in the tear flow system and tear composition. As a result, you either don’t produce enough tears or you produce poor-quality tears.
Over 30 million people in the United States suffer from dry eyes, making it one of the most common ocular conditions. The medical term for this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (Ker-uh-toe-kun-junk-tih-VY-tis SIK-uh). This condition is usually self-diagnosable.
Do You Have Dry Eyes? Take this Quiz
You may be wondering if your dry eyes are more than just an inconvenient irritation. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do your dry eyes symptoms affect your daily activities?
- Do you use artificial tears (also known as over-the-counter lubricant eye drops) daily?
- Are your dry eyes getting worse?
- Do certain situations trigger dry eyes? (e.g. being in an air-conditioned room or an airplane, riding a bike, extended screen time, etc.)
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may have dry eyes condition. Consult an eye doctor for a screening.
Signs and Causes
Here are some signs your tears aren’t providing enough moisture:
- A gritty feeling
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Feeling like there’s always something in your eye
- Watery eyes (the overproduction of tears is an immune response)
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
Common Causes of Dry Eyes
Aging - Dry eyes are more common in people over 50 because tear production diminishes as you get older.
Certain medical conditions - Diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency are risk factors.
Certain medications - Antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson's disease medications are just some of the drugs that might cause dry eyes.
Wearing contact lenses - When you wear contact lenses for prolonged periods, you might find that your eyes feel dry.
What You Can Do
You may need to seek treatment from an eye doctor in order to make you more comfortable. You will most likely need to take these measures to control the symptoms of dry eyes for the rest of your life. In the meantime, besides eye drops, try a few lifestyle changes that can help.
Here are a few suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:
- Consider wearing airtight goggles when you go to sleep. They will create a mini "moisture chamber" for your eyes to keep them from waking up to dry eyes..
- Reduce screen time or take frequent breaks from looking at the computer or other digital devices. Close your eyes for a few minutes or blink repeatedly to spread.
- When you are indoors, use a humidifier to add moisture to the air which tends to be dry, especially when the A/C is on.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to block the wind outside.
- Stop smoking and/ or avoid people who smoke. Smoke can worsen dry eyes symptoms, not to mention other diseases that smoking causes.
At VisionQuest Eyecare, our experienced optometrists can determine the course of treatment for dry eyes, depending on your diagnosis. Contact us today to schedule a screening and let us see what we can do to make you more comfortable.