Dry eye syndrome, also known as ‘keratoconjunctivitis sicca’ or ‘sicca syndrome’, can have many different causes.
All of us have probably suffered the sensation of dry eyes at some point. The dry, gritty feeling can be brought on temporarily by a lack of sleep, dry climate, and many other environmental factors. However, in some people dry eyes can be a constant problem and one that requires treatment to bring relief.
What is Dry Eye?
Do your eyes feel irritated or like something is in them?
Are you experiencing redness, burning, excessive tearing, or occasional blurry vision?
You may have dry eye, a common condition where your eyes do not produce enough tears. Sometimes, the only symptom of dry eye is recurring blurred vision.
Because there are many possible causes of dry eye, we gather a patient health history to better understand your risk. For example, common medications such as diuretics or antihistamines increase dry eye risk. You are also more likely to have dry eye if you wear contact lenses, recently had LASIK eye surgery, or use two or more glaucoma eye drops.
Quite often, thyroid dysfunction and the hormonal changes associated with menopause can cause dry eye. In addition, your work environment can also affect your eye health – for example, people who use a computer all day long are more susceptible to dry eye.
If we determine that you are at risk for dry eye, based on your symptoms and risk factors, we can perform state of the art tests to evaluate and understand the underlying reasons for your dry eye. We will work with you to identify the best treatment plan for your unique needs.
Dry eye symptoms
If your eyes constantly feel dry, gritty or sandy, you may suffer from dry eye syndrome. Other symptoms include red, irritated or sore eyes and difficulty wearing contact lenses. Watery eyes can also be a symptom of dry eyes, as the body produces excessive tears in response to the dryness and irritation.
Causes of dry eyes
Dry eyes are caused when the eyes cannot produce enough ‘normal’ tears, or when tears evaporate quickly because of a problem with the ‘tear film’. There are a number of reasons why this might occur. Meibomian gland inflammation and blepharitis are some of the factors that can contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome.
Some causes are from various external influences, such as one’s environment. Other causes are related to changes in the body’s nervous, hormonal, and immune systems that can occur over time. When a person has chronic Dry Eye, inflammatory changes in the tear-producing glands, and in the eye’s surface, can interfere with the production of normal tears. When this occurs, the eye produces fewer tears, that are less effective. This results in a tear film that evaporates more quickly than normal, which provides less moisture and protection for the eye’s surface. With the tear film’s protection diminished, the eyes may experience painful symptoms of Dry Eye, and damage to the eye surface may occur.
Age and gender
As we age our eyes produce fewer tears, which is why dry eyes affect around 75% of all people aged over 65. Gender is also a factor, with women more likely to suffer from dry eyes than men. Women may also suffer dry eyes as a result of hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, lactation, menstruation and menopause.
Using a computer
People who use a computer tend to blink less frequently than normal – about seven times per minute, rather than the normal rate of around 22 times per minute. This can cause increased evaporation of tears, and hence dry eyes. Positioning your monitor below eye level can help, as it allows the upper eyelid to cover more of the eye’s surface. Being aware of blink rate, air circulation and glare can also help.
Wearing contact lenses
Dry eye is the leading cause of contact lens irritation and most common among soft contact lens wearers. It can cause irritation, protein deposits and red eyes.
Use of some medications
There are some medications that can lead to dry eye symptoms. If you use decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, oral contraceptives, antidepressants or eye drops for ‘red eyes’, these may contribute to your dry eye symptoms.
Some diseases are commonly associated with dry eyes including arthritis, diabetes, asthma, thyroid disease and lupus. Sjogren’s Syndrome is the name given to the combination of symptoms that includes dry eyes, dry mouth and arthritis.
Inflammation of eyelid glands & eyelash follicles
Inflammation of the eyelid glands (called meibornian glands) and eyelash follicles can compromise the quality of the tear film, which causes tears to evaporate more quickly. This is sometimes caused by over-growth of bacteria normally found on the eyelids. If this is the case, it can often be treated with warm compresses, good eyelid hygiene and sometimes antibiotics.
Think you might have dry eye?
Talk to us today about how we can help you find relief.
Treatment for dry eyes
Because there are so many different causes of dry eyes, your treatment will depend on your individual symptoms and the cause of your condition. Most treatments for dry eyes involve either replacing tears or reducing tear drainage.