Your eyes are naturally lubricated by a layer of tears. Tears have a watery part and an oily part. Dry eye syndrome, or dry eye disease, occurs if the eyes don’t make enough tears, or the tears evaporate too quickly. Your eyes may become irritated, worsening as the day goes on. Dry eye can also be known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca.
There are a range of factors that cause dry eye. Increased use of computer screens can slow your blink rate which reduced the spread of tears across your eyes. Contact lenses can play a factor in dry eye. Dry eye tends to increase with age, and with the menopause in women. Some medications such as betablockers, the pill and antihistamines can worsen dry eye too. If you think you may have dry eye book as assessment with your optician. Some opticians specialise in treating dry eye.
Tear production is something that generally happens without any effort or thought – so it can be a shock when it goes wrong. There are a number of factors that can cause problems. Your eyes may not produce enough tears, or the oily layer that stops the tears evaporating may be of poor quality. Dry eye symptoms can be worsened by dry, sunny and windy climates, contact lenses, eye conditions such as blepharitis, some medications including anti-depressants and diuretics, and hormonal changes such as the menopause, pregnancy, or going onto the contraceptive pill. Tear quality and quantity tends to decrease with age too. Air conditioning and computer use can exacerbate dry eye. People who have had certain types of laser eye surgery may find they have dry eye syndrome after surgery: this usually clears up within a few months but for some people the problem persists. If you think you may have dry eye book as assessment with your optician. Some opticians specialise in treating dry eye.
Medical conditions that can increase your risk of dry eye include allergic conjunctivitis, contact dermatitis, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Bell’s palsy and HIV. If you have one of these problems talk to your consultant about any eye irritation.
If your eyes both become irritated as the day goes on, and this happens every day, you may have dry eyes. You may feel that your eyes are simply irritated or that they burn. Some people find their eyes are gritty on waking. Surprisingly, people with dry eye may find their eyes water as the eye tries to relieve irritation by increasing the production of tears. Your vision may be normal, or it may become blurry as the day goes on but clear on blinking. If you think you may have dry eye book as assessment with your optician. Some opticians specialise in treating dry eye.
Contact Lenses and Dry Eye
If your contact lenses are causing dry eye problems you may need to change to a different type of lens. Discuss this with your contact lens optician or optometrist and they can advise on the best lens to try. You may also want to alter your pattern of lens wear or solution: again, seek professional advice before making any changes like this. Your optician can also suggest suitable eye drops that will work with your contact lenses. Seek advice before purchasing eyedrops as some are unsuitable for contact lens wearers.
There are a number of ways to treat dry eye. It is important to find out the cause before starting treatment. If your Meibomian glands are not producing enough oil, hot compresses or massage with a special machine can help improve this. Omega oil supplements can also improve the quality of the oily secretions that are needed to help your tears. Some people have a tiny mite which irritates the eyelashes: this can also worsen dry eye. If you have this mite, your optician can use a special procedure to remove the mites which cuts irritation. If dry eye syndrome is caused by an underlying medical condition, treating this condition may help to relieve the symptoms. For persistent dry eye, a procedure to reduce tear drainage can help. Talk to your optician about which treatment might help you.