As people age, they produce less lubricating basal tear secretions. People over 50 are more prone to dry eyes. Dry eyes sting and burn. Recirculated airplane air, AC, sports, using a computer can cause dry eyes. People who wear contact lenses and those taking antihistamines are more susceptible to dry eyes. Dry eyes may also be associated with collagen vascular disease. Your tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus that helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear. Tears help protect your eyes from 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 makeup of your tears.

The medical term for not producing enough tears to lubricate your eyes is keratoconjunctivitis. Decreased tear production can be caused by:

  • Aging
  • Certain medical conditions, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren's syndrome, thyroid disorders and vitamin A deficiency
  • Certain medications, including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and drugs for high blood pressure, acne, birth control and Parkinson's disease
  • Laser eye surgery, though symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary
  • Tear gland damage from inflammation or radiation

Increased tear evaporation causes dry eyes. Common causes are wind, smoke or dry air. Infrequent blinking (tends to occur when you're concentrating while reading, driving or working at a computer) causes dry eyes as do eyelid problems like ectropion in which the eyelids turn outward and entropion in which the eyelids turn in.

An imbalance in tear composition also causes dry eyes. The tear film has three basic layers: oil, water and mucus. Problems with any of these layers can cause dry eyes. The oil film produced by small glands on the edge of your eyelids (meibomian glands) might become clogged, a condition that is more common in people with inflammation along the edge of their eyelids (blepharitis), rosacea or other skin disorders.

Without adequate tears, you may have an increased risk of eye infection. If left untreated severely dry eyes can result in inflammation of the eye, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems. Dry eyes can make it challenging to perform everyday activities, even simple activities like reading.

Dry Eyes
Contact lenses now come in versions designed to help people with dry eyes called scleral lenses or bandage lenses.
Dry Eyes
Hydroxypropyl cellulose (Lacrisert) eye inserts work like artificial tears. The insert dissolves slowly, releasing a substance that's used in eye drops to lubricate the eye.
Dry Eyes
A technique called intense-pulsed light therapy followed by massage of the eyelids helps people with severe dry eyes.
Symptoms
  • Dry, scratchy sensation, or sandy feeling on the surface of eye
  • Burning
  • Sticky eyelids upon awakening in the morning
  • Mucuous in the eye
  • Blurred vision
  • Redness
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty driving at night
  • Eye fatigue
Treatment
  • Artificial tears. We have many samples for you to try. Some patients prefer thicker drops that last longer; while others prefer the more watery drops.
  • Punctal plugs. A very thin tube drains excess tears from the upper and lower eyelids to the nose (this is why our noses run when crying). The plug closes the lower tube and it allows both the natural tears and the eye drops to stay on the eye longer.
  • Restasis eye drops. This prescription drug is used twice a day and stimulates increased tear production.
  • Nutritional Supplements. These include Omega 3 fatty acids and flaxseed oil. One brand of supplement for dry eyes is TheraTears Nutrition. This over-the-counter medicine may need to be ordered through a pharmacist.

Prevent dry eyes by installing a humidifier in your home. Don’t aim hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans directly toward your eyes.

Women are more prone to dry eyes particularly when hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause.

A diet low in vitamin A (found in liver, carrots and broccoli) or low in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts and vegetable oils) can contribute to dry eyes.

Position your computer screen below eye level. If your computer screen is above eye level, you'll open your eyes wider to view the screen. Position your computer screen below eye level to prevent opening your eyes as wide as is necessary with the screen mounted high.

Stop smoking and avoid smoke.  Smoke worsens dry eyes symptoms.

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