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.
Meibomian gland inflammation and Blepharitis: some of the factors that can contribute to Dry Eyes.
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 than men. Women may also suffer 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 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.
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 involve either replacing tears, or reducing tear drainage.
At Eye Institute we are acknowledged leaders in the treatment of dry eyes. If you are affected the best thing to do is make an appointment with one of our specialists, who will thoroughly assess your condition, and discuss treatment options with you.