What Is Dry Eye & What Causes Dry Eyes?
When your eyes don’t produce enough tears properly or when tears are not of that correct consistency and evaporate very quickly then the eyes cannot eliminate the dust and other irritant particles, which results in the condition, called as Dry Eyes. You may feel burning, stinging, pain and redness in your eyes. Dry Eyes are of two types: temporary and chronic. Temporary Dry Eyes are easy to treat with some environmental changes or daily habits. On the other hand, chronic Dry Eyes may have some underlying cause, for example, there could be any illness that is causing this condition. In order to work on the treatment of chronic Dry Eyes, it is necessary to look at the possible causes because the treatment option depends on the underlying cause.
But, at first it is important to understand the tears and their relation with Dry Eyes condition.
What are tears and how do they relate with Dry Eyes?
Tears are made by lacrimal gland and they are very important for the health of the eyes and a clear vision. Tears are constantly produced to play an important role of bathing and nourishing the surface of the eyes, keeping them moist, washing away all the dust and debris and protecting the eyes from bacterial and other infections.
Tears are composed of three main components:
- outer, oily, lipid layer which is produced by meibomian glands;
- middle, watery, lacrimal layer which is produced by lacrimal glands; and
- Inner, mucous or mucin layer which is produced by goblet cells, that are located within thin transparent layer over white part of eye and it covers inner surface of the eyelids.
Tears are made up of proteins (including the growth factors), electrolytes and vitamins which are responsible to maintain the health of eye surface and to prevent the eyes from infection. Tears are also produced in response to various emergencies such as dust particle in eye, irritation or infection of eye or an onset of any strong emotion.
When the lacrimal glands fail to produce tears that are sufficient then Dry Eyes syndrome occur. Any other diseases or illness can also alter the components of tears which make them unhealthy and affect their proper functioning, which also leads to Dry Eyes.
What are the causes of Dry Eyes?
Certain factors such as environment, inflammation, medication, age and any disease can cause Dry Eyes. Some important causes of Dry Eyes are as follows:
Your environment and behaviour greatly impact the health of your eyes. This includes the eye makeup which can cause Dry Eyes. When particles from powder eye shadow, mascara or eye liner enter your eyes tear film, they can thin the oil in the tears, which results in the dryness of the eyes. So, if you avoid applying these things then this can help to reduce the symptoms.
If there is a smoky, dry, windy environment then it can cause tears to evaporate too quickly, which leads to Dry Eyes. So, by setting up a cool mist humidifier in home, you can avoid this dry environment. Infrequent blinking of eyes while staring at screen or paper or doing an activity can make your eye dry. So, try to frequently take breaks and blink your eyes as it will be helpful. Wearing contact lenses for a long period of time during the day can also cause your eyes to dry because the contacts can make the tear film thin.
If you are living in these environmental conditions or having these habits then change them and see if your Dry Eyes symptoms clear up or not. If they don’t clear up then there may be some serious cause.
Medications that dry the sinuses (small, air-filled cavities behind cheekbones and forehead) can also dry the eyes and this is because both sinuses and eyes have mucus membranes. Certain medications that can dry your eyes are antihistamines (to reduce allergic reactions), sleeping pills, high blood pressure medication such as beta-blockers and diuretics, medicines that reduce anxiety and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.
If you’re taking any of these medications then talk to your doctor. If your symptoms of Dry Eyes didn’t reduce even after changing these medications then there may be a different cause.
Changes in the body:
You may also experience the condition of Dry Eyes as a result of some changes in your body which may include: the condition occurs as a side effect of changes in hormones, it may also occur when a woman is pregnant, taking birth control medicines or going through menopause. Aging is another cause of Dry Eyes and the condition is common in adults above 50 years of age.
Other medical conditions and procedures:
Certain medical conditions and procedures can also cause Dry Eyes. For example, laser eye surgery can increase the risk for the patient to get his/her eyes dried out. Other medical conditions that may lead to Dry Eyes include:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid problems
- Scleroderma (a connective tissue disease)
- Vitamin D deficiency
- Damage to tear glands
- Blepharitis (inflammation of the eyelids)
- Lupus (inflammatory disease when immune system of the body attacks its own tissues and organs)
- Sjogren’s syndrome (a condition that affects parts of the body that produce fluids such as tears and saliva)
- Rosacea (chronic skin condition that affects mainly the face) and other inflammatory skin conditions
- Blockage or inflammation of Meibomian gland (a kind of sebaceous gland that supplies oily substance to prevent evaporation of eye’s tear film)
Getting a proper treatment of any of these medical conditions may resolve the condition of Dry Eyes. It’s important to consult the doctor for finding out whether a medical condition is causing dryness to your eyes.
Remember, if your symptoms of Dry Eyes persists for long time period e.g. for weeks or you have changed your environment or changed your current medications but the symptoms still exist then you should consult the doctor. Getting to the doctor greatly help to reveal the underlying cause of Dry Eyes which may be any medical condition.
The board certified ophthalmologists at Menger Eye Centers are highly recommended for the treatment of Dry Eyes in Glendale, NYC. They are treating many patients who are experiencing various types of eye diseases. For the condition of Dry Eyes, they perform advanced diagnostic exams and rule out all the possible causes of Dry Eyes then tailor a proper treatment plan depending on the underlying cause.