Dry Eyes: What causes it?
Dry eyes can be described in two ways; our inability to produce enough tears or produce tears that cannot sufficiently make our eyes moist. Whichever way we choose to go in these two instances, the crux of the matter in dry eyes is that we cannot produce the appropriate amount of tear that is normally needed for our eyes to be well-moistened.
Tears are our body’s way of ensuring that our eyes are kept healthy and infection-free by washing away substances that can harm them. They also ensure that the inner surfaces of our eyes are smooth.
When we have dry eyes, we are likely going to experience burning or stinging sensation that makes us really uncomfortable.
One thing about dry eyes is that it does not understand jack about time, another way of saying we can develop it at any time. Nevertheless, there are instances that can make us prone to having it and one such instance is prolonged exposure of our eyes to the computer. Exposing ourselves to wind can also predispose us to have dry eyes.
When we have dry eyes, none of our eyes are left out.
There is virtually nobody who has not had dry eyes at one point or the other in their lives.
Often times, dry eyes is really no serious eye condition. Common over-the-counter medications, usually solutions, can handle them.
WHAT ARE COMMON CAUSES OF DRY EYES?
Many things can readily predispose us to have dry eyes. Let us take a look at some of them right away.
Inadequate Production of Tears
The underproduction of tears, a condition also referred to as dry eye syndrome or keratoconjunctivitis, is one of the most common reasons why we might have dry eyes. What are some of the factors that can make us produce lesser tears? Right below here!
- Old age! Women, especially after their menopause, have a higher risk of developing keratoconjunctivitis. This is mostly attributed to the hormonal changes they go through.
- Vitamin A deficiency –is not too common in the United States.
- Sjogren’s syndrome.
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Thyroid disorder.
- Damaged tear glands perhaps due to chemical burns, injury, heat, inflammation, or radiation.
- LASIK, a kind of laser eye surgery produces dry eye syndrome in LASIK; a transient effect though.
Tears can be of high quality or low quality. High-quality tears will always contain the right amount of mucus, oils, and water. But when it falls short of this, it becomes low-quality tears! And guess what this will lead to? Dry tears!
There are other times that just a clogged gland, especially the meibomian glands that oversees the production of oil for our eyes, can upset the composition of our tears. It will interest you to know that the oil this glands manufacture are chiefly responsible for slowing down evaporation of our tears.
So whether it is the mucus that is low or the oil or the water, “low-quality tears” becomes the outcome.
The following are medications that can make us predisposed to having dry eyes:
- Birth control pills.
- Medications for hypertension.
- Hormone replacement therapies.
- Acne medications.
The following are some environmental elements or day-to-day activities that can lead to dry eyes:
- Staying for a long time in a smoky environment.
- Riding a bicycle.
- Working at a computer.
- Dry air.
- Traveling by plane.
Such factors as outlined below can also precipitate dry eyes;
- Protracted use of contact lenses.
- Blinking difficulty.
- Inflammation involving the eyelids, a condition referred to as blepharitis.
- Turning off the eyelids outwardly or inwardly.
WHEN SHOULD YOU CALL A DOCTOR FOR DRY EYES?
We are advised to reach out to our healthcare provider or doctor whenever we experience any of the following;
- Protracted irritated eyes that most times become, red and itchy.
- Sudden vision blurring.
- A sudden decrease in vision
- Painful eyes.
We can be referred to an optometrist or ophthalmologist by our doctor to investigate further into what might be wrong with our eyes.
What the specialist will typically do will be to take measurement of the tears volume in our eyes. Another typical thing that we should expect to be examined for will how quickly our tears evaporate from our eyes surface. Remember that quick evaporation of tears indicate that there is not enough oil in the tears and hence, poor quality tears which speak volume of dry eyes.
TREATING DRY EYES
For dry eyes to be treated, it will require that the normal volume and quality of tears in our eyes be restored.
We can really take care of our dry eyes comfortably from home by getting the appropriate over-the-counter medications.
We can readily purchase cheap yet result-producing artificial tear solutions or eye drops over-the-counter. They are easy-to-apply.
These eye drops come in different types. They are very rich in electrolytes, especially bicarbonate and potassium. These two electrolytes have enhancing healing effect on the eyes’ surface.
Some other types of eye drops contain thickening agents. These agents have the power to ensure that the lubricating solution used on our eyes surface remain for a longer period of time.
Two principal categories of artificial tears are available;
Those containing preservatives – they are the more common ones and usually with multi-dose vials. Some person has been reported to react to the preservative chemicals (antibacterial) used in this eye drops.
Those containing no preservatives – they have been found to be less irritating, though more expensive than the ones containing preservatives. They come in vials that are single-dose.
We might have to experiment on a couple of brands of the available eye drops to be able to arrive at that which will perfectly work for us. And you should expect that this will differ from person to person.
The following are very common brands of eye drops;
- Clear Eyes.
The local drugstore closest to us can present to us other versions available in their store.
The use of lubricating ointments or doing warm eyes compression can help our dry eyes feel better.
Most of the dry eyes we have might not really need us to see a doctor. Seeing a doctor anyways is advised as we can be well-guided in the choice of eye drops that can best work for us.
Restasis, ophthalmic cyclosporine or topical corticosteroids can be prescribed to us by our doctor.
Fatty acids have been known to alleviate symptoms associated with dry eyes. Hence, supplements or foods that are well-packed with omega-3 fatty acids can also be recommended for our dry eyes.
Tuna is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
Usually, we will be educated on the right dosage by our doctor.
In really severe cases of dry eyes, surgical procedures to plug those holes in our eyes that drain tears into our nose will have to be carried out. These holes are situated at our eyelids’ corners.
Lacrimal plugs are the plugs used for this surgery. They are usually not painful neither are they going to be permanently ‘resident’ in our eyes. They are only going to remain as long as our dry eyes remain. But once we are fine, they are also off! In case you are worried that you will ‘feel some things’ in your eyes while the lacrimal plugs are there, not to worry at all. You are not going to feel anything!
POTENTIAL LONG-TERM COMPLICATIONS OF DRY EYES
Whenever we develop dry eyes, it is wisdom for us to quickly attend to it. Otherwise, it can make us get infections and produce pains, which I believe we do not want to go through.
Aside infections and pains, our cornea, the dome-shaped front aspect of our eyes, can become ulcerated or scarred. What this actually means is that our vision can be lost, although it will not be permanent as no documented facts have been found to claim permanent vision impairment from dry eyes.
Most importantly, we should not forget that dry eyes can affect the quality of lives we live and lead as they can make the performance of certain tasks become really difficult. None of us want to get to this point!
HOW CAN DRY EYES BE PREVENTED?
For the fact that we cannot completely escape having dry eyes at one point or the other in our lives does not leave us with the option of not making conscious plans to prevent the likelihood of its occurrence. Hence, let us look at some of the ways we can be proactive against having dry eyes, especially when it comes to factors we can place a check on, for example, environmental factors!
It is important we blink often whenever we have to use a book or a computer for a long time at a stretch.
It is not a bad idea when we use a humidifier to enhance the humidity of the air around us.
We can prevent developing dry eyes if we do not allow air from a moving fan or an air conditioner blow into our eyes.
Wearing of sunshades whenever we are in the sun can help us stay away from having dry eyes.
If we stay away from smoking tobacco, we will be better for it and dry eyes can be scared away from us!
In conclusion, complications from dry eyes can be minimized if we faithfully use eyes drops or ointments as the case may, as well as other treatment regimens our doctor prescribes for us.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.