Dry Eyes? Relief Is In Sight
Dry eye is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t providing enough lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for many reasons, including not making enough tears or producing poor-quality tears.
Dry eyes feel uncomfortable and may sting or burn. Other symptoms may include redness, light sensitivity, irritation, difficulty wearing contact lenses, blurred vision, or eye fatigue. Some people experience watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.
What’s in a tear? They’re a complex combination of water, for moisture; oils, for lubrication; mucus, for even spreading; and antibodies and special proteins that prevent infection. For some people, the cause of dry eyes is decreased tear production. For others it’s increased tear evaporation and an imbalance in the tear chemistry.
The tear film has three basic layers: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes. Common causes of decreased tear production include aging, certain medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, thyroid disorders, vitamin A deficiency and certain medications. Laser eye surgery can also cause this type of dry eye, although it is usually temporary.
Increased tear evaporation can be caused by wind, smoke, dry air, or decreased blinking, which tends to occur when you’re concentrating.
Dry eyes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading. If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, infection, corneal abrasions and vision problems.
Some tips to aid with your symptoms:
Take periodic eye breaks during tasks that require visual concentration. Close your eyes for a few minutes or blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly.
The air at high altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes can be extremely dry. It may be helpful to frequently close your eyes for a few minutes at a time to minimize evaporation of your tears.
Position your computer screen below eye level so that you won’t open your eyes as wide. This may help slow the evaporation of your tears between blinks.
Stop smoking and avoid smoke.
Ask your eye doctor what is right for you. There are many types of over-the-counter eyedrops, prescription medications, supplements and even some new in-office treatments available, so relief is in sight.