Dry eyes is a condition in which your eyes don’t have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish your eyes. Tears play an important role for maintaining the health of the front portion of the eye and help to provide clear vision.

It can occur when tears in your eyes evaporate too quickly or if eyes produce too few tears. Similarly, abnormality in the production of mucus or lipids that are found in the tear layer can cause eyes to get dry. Basically, our tear is composed of 3 layers i.e. mucin, aqueous, and lipid. 

Anyone can be a victim of dry eye but it is more commonly seen in older people. It can affect one or both eyes. It is more common in females than male.

Tears are basically made up of water, protein,electrolytes, fatty oils, bacteria fighting substances and growth factors that regulates various cell processes. These constituents help to keep the eye surface smooth and clear. 

Tear film also helps to protect eyes from dust and foreign particles. An individual can experience dry eye if there is an imbalance in the system of production of tears. 

Normally we call dry eye or simply dry eye syndrome or dry eye diseases. The medical term for this condition is keratoconjunctivitis sicca. 

What are the causes of dry eyes?

It mainly occur when tear production and drainage systems are not in balance condition. As well as imbalance in the tear mixture can also play a role. 

Tear film consists of lipid, aqueous and mucin layers. Any problem with any of these layers can lead to tear instability and dry eyes. The outermost lipid layer contributes to prevent evaporation and increase lubrication. Similarly, the innermost  mucin layer helps hold and spread the tears across the surface of the eye.

Furthermore, it can be caused due to the following reasons.

Aging

If you are older, you may not produce enough tears due to the fact that tear production decreases as we grow older. 

Gender

Due to hormonal changes in pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause. Women are more likely to be victims of dry eyes than men. 

Use of various medications

Various medicines such as antihistamine, blood pressure medicine, some antidepressants, decongestants, using ophthalmic medications with preservatives can reduce tear production. 

Environmental factor

Exposure to smoke, wind, dry, and dust conditions can increase tear evaporation which results in dry eye symptoms. 

Various medical conditions

You may not produce enough tears if you have the following medical conditions:

  1. Diabetes
  2. Rheumatoid arthritis 
  3. Sjogren’s syndrome 
  4. Scleroderma
  5. Lupus
  6. Vitamin A deficiency 
  7. Thyroid disorder 

Eyelids problems

If you are having any eyelids problems that makes you difficult to blink your eyes. Then the tears can’t spread adequately across eyes or tears may evaporate too quickly which causes dry eyes.  

Furthermore, you can be at high risk of dry eyes if you: 

  1. Spend a lot of time in front of digital devices like laptops, computers, smartphones and so on. For more details about the effects of digital devices in eyes, visit this
  1. Have had laser eye surgeries.
  1. Use Contact lens for long term . 
  1. Had nutritional deficiency of omega-3 fatty acid. 

What are the symptoms of dry eyes syndrome? 

An individual with dry eyes or dry eye syndrome may experience the following symptoms. 

  • Stinging or burning sensation 
  • Itchy eyes
  • A sensation of having something foreign bodies in the eyes 
  • Redness of the eyes
  • Blurred vision 
  • Light sensitivity
  • Diplopia 
  • Eyelids sticking together when waking up 
  • Some may experience pain
  • Difficulty in wearing contact lenses.

Symptoms of dry eyes tend to get worse after doing some visual activities like reading for a while, spending a lot of time on computers or commonly digital devices , driving for a while and so on. 

Dry eyes symptoms may vary among individuals and usually fluctuate throughout the day. Usually becomes  worse later in the day. 

Dry eyes can be progressive disease. If it is left untreated, it can lead to increased risk of infection or visual impairment. 

How is dry eye diagnosed?

Eye care professionals will perform comprehensive eye examination so as to diagnose dry eyes. 

First of all, they will take patient history . They will ask symptoms that the patient is facing. Similarly they will ask patients to tell them about their systemic health too. Patients should tell if they are using any medicines. 

Then professionals will examine eyelids and cornea using light and magnification. They will evaluate blink dynamics. 

Eye care experts may put special dyes so as to observe tearflow and highlight any other changes. 

Furthermore, experts may perform other tests if required. Information obtained from the evaluation will help experts to diagnose dry eyes and advice treatment options. 

How are dry eye treated? 

Once you have been diagnosed with dry eyes syndrome, your doctor may prescribe artificial eye drops . Treatment aims to keep eyes lubricated but approach depends upon the underlying cause of dry eyes.

Normally, the treatment approach of dry eyes includes the following.

  • Avoiding those conditions that worsen the condition. 
  • Tear stimulation and supplement 
  • Increasing tear retention and eyelid cleansing
  • Treatment of eye inflammation 

For mild and moderate conditions,  lubrication is most important. Artificial tear drops can provide relief. Lubricating tear ointments can also be used at bedtime due to poor vision after application. 

Some measures to follow to reduce the effect of dry eye are 

  1. Blink more frequently during computer or any digital devices use 
  2. Wear special glasses while spending time on laptops or computers 
  3. Apply Cold compression if you are having itchy eyes due to allergies 
  4. Warm compression helps to reduce burning sensation in dry eye 
  5. Avoid dry, smokey and dusty environment
  6. Avoid Air Conditioner, fan, hairdryers and others when these devices are directed towards your eyes.

How can you prevent it?

As we know, Prevention is better than cure so why not prevent this. Just Remember the following points.

  1. Wash your eyes with clean, cold, and running water 4-6 times a day. 
  2. Drink a lot of water daily
  3. Wear glasses while driving and spending a lot of time on digital devices.
  4. If you are a contact lens wearer, maintain proper hygiene.
  5. Don’t skip sleep.

Why does an individual sometimes wake up with dry eye?

There are various reasons behind it. 

Sometimes, while sleeping your eyelids are not tightly closed . Even a minimal gap can allow dirt and dust in your eyes and irritate eyes. In such conditions if your eyes are exposed with a fan or Air conditioner, your eyes can dry out. 

Similarly,  using any medicines during bedtime can also dry your eyes. 

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