Dry eyes – symptoms, causes & treatments
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Dry Eyes

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 lack of sleep, a dry climate, and many other environmental factors. But in some people, dry eyes can be a constant problem, and one that requires treatment to bring relief.

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. Sometimes, watery eyes can actually be a symptom of dry eyes, as the body produces excessive tears in response to the dryness and irritation.

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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.

Dry Eyes
Meibomian gland inflammation and Blepharitis: some of the factors that can contribute to Dry Eye Syndrome

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 7 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. It is most common among soft contact lens wearers, and 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.

Diseases

Some diseases are commonly associated with dry eyes, including arthritis, diabetes, asthma, thyroid disease and lupus. Sjögren’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 special antibiotics.

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.

Eye Institute is an acknowledged leader in the treatment of dry eyes. If you suffer from dry eyes, the best thing to do is make an appointment with one of our eye specialists, who will thoroughly assess your condition, and discuss treatment options with you.

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