Why Are My Eyes Dry? Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments For Dry Eyes
What Is Dry Eyes Disease?
Dry eyes disease occurs when the tear glands fail to produce enough tears. It may happen due to poor-quality tears and inadequate lubrication. Due to lack of tears, risks to eye inflammation and damage to the eye’s surface increase. Dry eyes treatment includes Cyclosporine and similar eye drops, lifestyle changes, and home remedies.
Some of the common signs of dry eye condition are stingy and burning sensation in the eyes. Causes usually include looking at the computer for long hours, being in an air-conditioned room or airplane. Even riding a bike, especially without wearing a helmet or eye-protection, may cause this disease.
In the below post, we will discuss dry eye symptoms, causes, risks, diagnosis, treatments, preventions, and home remedies.
Dry Eyes Symptoms
Here are the signs of discomfort that you may notice:
- Burning, scratch, or stinging sensation in eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty with driving in the night
- Eye fatigue or blurry vision
- Sensation of having a foreign item in eyes
- Redness of eyes
- Stringy mucus around or in the eye
- Watery eyes due to eye irritation
- Difficulty in wearing contact lenses
In case of pain, tiredness, and irritation in eyes or the above-mentioned symptoms, meet an eye specialist at the soonest.
Dry Eyes Causes
Here are the causes for dry eyes:
1. Decrease in Tear Production
Keratoconjunctivitis is a condition where you are unable to produce aqueous fluid. This may happen as you get older. Corneal nerve desensitivity caused by nerve damage, contact lens, or laser eye surgery is also a cause. The symptoms of dry eyes from it are temporary.
Medical conditions responsible are:
- Sarcoidosis, allergic eye disease
- Scleroderma, thyroid disorder
- Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Graft vs. host disease
Certain medications may be responsible too:
- Decongestants, antidepressants
- Antihistamines, birth control
- Hormone replacement therapy
- Medicines for Parkinson’s disease
- Medicines for high blood pressure
2. Tear Glands and Tear Ducts
Problems with tear film or any of its three layers can cause dry eyes. The three layers of tear film are mucus, fatty oils, and aqueous liquid. Tear film dysfunction may lead to lack of eye lubrication. Cause of it includes:
- Autoimmune disease, hormonal changes
- Allergic eye disease, or eyelid gland inflammation
- These may lead to tear evaporation and decreased tear production
3. Increase in Tears Evaporation
There are small glands at the meibomian glands. These are at the edge of eyelids. The gland produces an oil film. The same may get clogged. Such a condition is likely to affect people with skin disorders such as rosacea. The cause to it is:
- An eye allergy or deficiency of Vitamin A
- Meibomian gland dysfunction (posterior blepharitis)
- Smoke/windy/dry air
- Preservatives in topical eye drops
- Not blinking quite often
- Eyelid problems such as ectropion or entropion
Risk Factors for Dry Eyes
The risk factors to dry eyes are:
- History of refractive surgery, or wearing contact lenses for a long time
- Tear production diminishes as people age. Dry eyes are common for those over 50 years old
- Low on omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A
- Women using birth control pills, in menopause, or going through hormonal changes
Dry Eyes Diagnosis
Here are the type of procedures and tests to understand what causes dry eyes:
- Tear Osmolarity Test: This exam is to measure the composition of water and particles in tears. If you have dry eyes, then the content of water is less.
- Complete Eye Examination: An eye exam to check the overall eye health and dry eyes cause.
- Understand the Markers of Dry Eyes: The doctor will take tear samples to check for dry eye’s markers such as decreased lactoferrin or elevated matrix metalloproteinase-9.
- Check the Quality of Tears: It is important to understand the surface condition of an eye. To know the same, special dyes in eyedrops help. The doctor analyses the staining patterns on the cornea. This checks the amount of time it takes for tears to evaporate.
- Tear Production Test: The Schirmer test to check the tear volume or production. Here, the doctor will place a blotting paper strip under the eyelid. Then you have to wait for 5 minutes. After this, the doctor will measure the amount of moisture caused by your tears on the strip.
The phenol red thread test is another method. Here a thread is filled with pH-sensitive dye on the lower eyelid. The thread is kept for 15 seconds. After this, the doctor measures the tears volume. Tears change the dye colour.
Dry Eyes Treatment
Here are treatment options for dry eyes:
1. Punctal Plugs
These are biocompatible devices. Other names for this product are lacrimal plugs, punctum plugs, and occluders. The doctor will insert this tiny (size of a rice grain) device into the tear ducts. The plug helps to block tear drainage. In turn, the eye tear film increases. Also, more surface moisture results. Together, they provide relief to dry eyes.
2. Medicines for Eyelid Inflammation
The healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to reduce eyelid inflammation. These will aid the oil glands to secrete oil in the tears. Most of the antibiotics are oral. But a few are ointments or eyedrops.
3. Eyedrops for Cornea Inflammation
You can depend on Cyclosporine eye drops (Restasis) as a first-line treatment. This is an immune-suppressant. It gets rid of eye surface inflammation. Or, you can even try corticosteroids. But corticosteroids may cause side effects. So, these are not preferable for long-term use.
4. Tear-stimulating Medications
Medicines such as cholinergic (cevimeline, pilocarpine) assists to increase production of tears. These are available as gels, eyedrops, or pills.
5. Eye Drops from Own Blood
Autologous blood serum drops may work if you fail to respond to other treatment types. The doctor will take your blood sample to prepare the eyedrop. He/she will remove the red blood cells. And later on, it will be mixed with a salt solution.
6. Plastic Surgery of Eyelids
Eyelid conditions are of two types. When your eyelids turn outwards, the condition is ‘ectropion’. When the lids turn inwards, the condition is ‘entropion’. You can visit an eye surgeon for oculoplastic surgery to fix the problem of eyelids.
Tips to Prevent Dry Eyes
Here are a few preventive measures for dry eyes:
- In winters use a humidifier. This will induce moisture in dry indoor air
- Keep your eyes from directly facing car heaters, hair dryers, fans, and air conditioners
- Too dry or cold surroundings can irritate eyes, so stay use recommended eye drop
- Take periodic eye breaks during tasks that need visual focus for a long time
- For chronic dry eyes, utilize artificial tears to keep eyes lubricated
- Keep smoking in check, or rather quit smoking
- Position your computer screen below the eye level
- Wear safety shields for eyes such as wraparound sunglasses against dry air and wind
Home Remedies for Dry Eyes
Here are a few dry eyes home remedies:
- Eat omega-3 fatty acids rich food such as salmon, sardines, palm/soyabean oil and flaxseed
- In some cases, acupuncture therapy may work. Ask for a professional help in it
- Place warm compress on eyes to free the oil glands
- Control your blood sugar levels by following a balanced diet
- Avoid food you are allergic to. Also restrict alcohol consumption
- If you are sensitive to sunlight, then wear a head or eye gear when outdoors
- Drink more water and get sufficient sleep
- Try out castor oil eye drops to reduce tear evaporation
- For eye health take supplements for Vitamin A/E/C/B6/B9, Thiamine, and Niacin
- You can also take supplements for Zeaxanthin, Lutein, and Riboflavin
Dry eyes are a common eye condition. There is no single cause for it. The disease may occur due to a combination of scenarios or one. It can affect any person. Thus, it is crucial to firstly understand the cause for it. So, seek the advice of a healthcare provider. He/she will diagnose the problem and suggest the right treatment method.
February 17, 2021 Sam Bell