Nobody likes to have dry itchy eyes, and yet dry eye syndrome is a condition that affects millions of people every year. The condition is most common in people over the age of 50. In this article, we will explain what dry eye syndrome is and what causes it. We’ll also review the most common treatments and how you can prevent it.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is a condition that occurs when the tear ducts fail to produce enough water, mucus, or oil to lubricate the eyes.
The most common symptoms of dry eyes include the following:
- Burning, pain, or redness in the eyes
- Stringy mucus
- Watery tearing
- Eye fatigue
- Blurred vision
- Feeling of having sand in your eyes
- Dry itchy eyes
- Feeling of heaviness in the eyes
Dry Eyes Cause
There is no singular cause of dry eye syndrome. Some of the causes include:
- Exposure to dry air or wind
- Hormone replacement therapy
- LASIK surgery
- Long-term use of contact lenses
- Medications, including antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills, and decongestants
- Insufficient blinking
- Long hours in front of a computer
You should see your doctor if dryness in your eyes has become a problem that interferes with your quality of life. Your doctor will diagnose dry eye syndrome by asking you questions and examining your eyes.
Dry Eye Treatment
The most common dry eyes remedy for home use is a product called artificial tears. These are eye drops that lubricate the eyes and act as a replacement for natural tears. You can buy them at most pharmacies.
Dry macular degeneration is most likely to affect people as they age. Most people experience a deterioration in their vision over time and dry eyes are a related problem. The most common treatments include the following.
- Over-the-counter or prescription eye drops
- Lacrimal plugs to block the drainage holes in the corners of your eyes
- Anti-inflammatory drops, usually containing cyclosporine or corticosteroids
- Pilocarpine to increase tear production
If your doctor believes that medications you are taking are contributing to dry eye syndrome, they may recommend changing to new medications to see if that alleviates the problem.
Most cases of dry eye syndrome do not require surgery. However, in severe cases, there are several surgical options.
- Permanent implantation of lacrimal plugs
- LipiFlow, a procedure that helps tears flow more freely
- BlephEx, a procedure that cleans the eyelid and may help with dryness
Suggested home treatments may include limiting time in front of screens and using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
Ways to Prevent Dry Eye Syndrome
Whether you have already experienced dry eye syndrome or want to avoid it in the future, there are things you can do to keep your eyes healthy and avoid chronic dryness.
- Avoid blowing air into your eyes. That may mean avoiding hair dryers, air conditioners, fans, or car heaters.
- As noted above, you can use a humidifier to add moisture if the air in your home is dry.
- Take breaks during long tasks. If you’re doing any task that requires visual concentration, take a break every half hour or so to close your eyes or blink.
- Wear protective sunglasses, particularly glasses that include safety shields at the top and sides to block dry air from reaching your eyes. Wrap-around glasses and sunglasses are a good choice for people with dry eye syndrome.
- Reposition your computer screen. The best position is below eye level, since looking at screens above eye level requires you to open your eyes wide, and that may cause your eyes to dry out more quickly than they would otherwise.
- Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke. The chemicals in cigarette smoke can irritate and dry your eyes.
- Be aware of the air quality – if you live or work in a dry environment, use artificial tears or take breaks to blink your eyes to prevent dryness.
The good news about dry eye syndrome is that it is a highly treatable condition, and most treatments are affordable and non-invasive.