Dry eyes is one of the most common eye problems affecting the general population today. Dry eye syndrome is a condition caused by an insufficient amount of tears and moisture needed to lubricate the eyes. Common symptoms include persistent dryness; irritated, gritty, scratchy, burning eyes; red eyes; a feeling of something in your eyes; blurred vision; and watering eyes.
Why are tears important?
People with dry eyes often do not produce enough tears, or produce a poor quality of tears. Tears have many important functions. They provide lubrication, wash away foreign matter in the eye, reduce the risk of eye infections, and keep the eye surface smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eye drain into a duct located in the inner corner of the eyelids. Tears consist of three essential components, each with an important function. An inner mucus layer , a middle watery layer, and an outer oily layer. The inner mucus layer helps the middle watery layer spread evenly over the eye. The watery layer functions to keep the eye moist and comfortable. The outer oily layer prevents the middle layer from evaporating too quickly. Dry eye symptoms can develop with an insufficiency or imbalance in any of the three layers.
What causes dry eyes?
Dry eye development can have many causes.
- Age–Dry eyes is more common with older adults.
- Environmental conditions–Persons exposed to smoke, dry, and windy climates may experience dry eyes as a result of increased tear evaporation. Also, failure to blink regularly, such as when staring a computer screen for long periods of time can dry the eyes out.
- Gender–Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes, using oral contraceptives, and menopause.
- Medication–Some medications (such as antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, birth control pills and blood pressure medications) can have side effects that reduce tear production in the eye.
- Medical conditions–people with systemic diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have dry eye symptoms.
- Other factors–long term contact lens wear, smoking, eye surgeries, and incomplete closure of the eyelids
What treatment options are available for dry eyes?
Dry eye syndrome is usually a chronic and progressive condition. Depending on the cause, it may not be completely curable. A variety of treatments are available depending on the cause.
- Eye drops and lubricants–Artificial tears
- Tear plugs
- EZ tears vitamin pill
- Lustatsis–prescription eyedrop