Winter Dry Eyes
Throughout winter the most common complaints in practice are regarding Dry Eyes. Dry eye can make your eye feel uncomfortable, red, scratchy and irritated. Despite the name, having dry eye can also make your eyes watery. Typically, dry eye doesn’t cause a permanent change in your vision. It can make your eyesight blurry for short periods of time, but the blurriness will go away on its own or improve when you blink. I have found lots more information from RNIB that may be useful.
Why have I developed dry eye?
Dry eye is caused by a problem with your tears. You may develop dry eye if:
- you don’t produce enough tears
- your tears aren’t of the right quality
- your tears aren’t spread across the front of your eye properly.
Dry eye is usually more common as people get older. As we age, our eyelids aren’t as good at spreading tears each time we blink. The various glands in our eyes that produce tears may also become less effective. Essentially, the quality of something known as your tear film gets worse.
What are the causes of dry eye?
While dry eye can occur at any age, it is more common in women, especially after the menopause. Changes in hormonal levels such as in pregnancy and menopause can contribute to dry eye. The following can also affect your tear film and contribute to dry eye:
Blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction
Blepharitis and meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) are both very common causes of dry eye.
Blepharitis is an inflammation of the eyelids and can sometimes be caused by a bacterial infection. It can be divided into two types based on the location:
- Anterior blepharitis is when the inflammation is primarily around the lashes and in front of the lid margin.
- Posterior blepharitis is when there is inflammation present behind the lid margin and is often caused by MGD.
MGD happens when the glands lining your upper and lower lids are blocked. You have about 30 of these small meibomian glands on each upper and lower lid located just behind your lashes. These glands secrete oil onto the front of your tears. If too much or too little is produced, the tears tend to evaporate too fast leaving your eyes dry and uncomfortable.
If you’re taking certain drugs, such as antihistamines, antidepressants, pain medications and oral contraceptives, you may develop dry eye symptoms.
Using contact lenses can put you at risk of developing dry eye. You should follow the advice for wearing contact lenses and look after them carefully.
Other health conditions
There are a number of health conditions, particularly inflammatory conditions, that are associated with dry eye, such as rheumatoid arthritis and Sjögren’s syndrome. Sjögren’s syndrome is a condition that may cause you to have dry eye and a dry mouth.
Surgery to the eye or injury to the eye surface
If you have surgery on your eye (for example laser eye surgery) or an accident which affects or scars your eye, you may develop dry eye. Your dry eye symptoms usually improve once the eye has healed, but this can take time.
Is there anything I can do to help with dry eyes?
Having dry eyes can be difficult. Eyes that are red, itchy and painful for long periods can be tiring. When your eyes first become dry, you may feel upset and worried. However, dry eye doesn’t usually cause any damage to your eye and typically doesn’t lead to permanent changes to your vision. There are many things that you can try to help you manage it better:
- Use your prescribed eye drops regularly. Finding eye drops that work for you can make a huge difference.
- Adjust your environment. Lowering temperature and using a humidifier may help, as central heating and air conditioning can worsen your symptoms.
- Avoid dusty, windy and smoky areas or use wrap-around glasses when you are exposed to these environments.
- Take rest periods and remember to blink often when you are using the computer, watching television and reading.
- Try to have a healthy balanced diet, with flax seed as well as foods containing omega 3 and 6, such as oily fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, green leafy vegetables, etc.
- Avoid using eye make-up when there’s infection or inflammation present.
- If you wear contact lenses, have regular eye follow-ups. You may need a break from wearing contact lenses if your eyes are dry, or explore different types of lenses which may be more suitable for dry eye.
Finding the right eye drops to suit you and trying different things to help cope with the symptoms of dry eye can take some time and commitment. Although there is no cure for dry eye, most people will learn how to manage their dry eye so that it doesn’t have too much impact on their everyday lives.
For more information from RNIB click the link, https://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health/eye-conditions/dry-eye
If you have any questions about dry eye, we are here to help. Call 02887722379 for more information or an appointment with our optician.