“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house!” If you’ve seen a heart-wrenching movie or attended an especially moving concert, you’re probably heard that phrase. But the truth is, there’s never a dry in the house – because our eyes are constantly full of tears. Of course, we only see our tears when our eyes begin to water, but they’re always there, providing moisture and lubrication. If you have dry eyes, it means your tear system needs a bit of TLC – but what are the causes of dry eyes?
Causes of Dry Eyes
What Do Dry Eyes Feel Like?
If you’ve ever suffered from dry eyes, you know they can feel extremely uncomfortable. You may notice dry eyes in certain situations – like when you’re on an airplane or in a highly air-conditioned room. But there are also several signs and symptoms that you may be experiencing dry eyes outside of the norm:
- Stinging or burning eyes
- An unusual amount of stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Eye redness
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Sensitivity to light
- Frustratingly watery eyes
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
Dry Eye Risk Factors
So, you’ve noticed one or more symptoms of dry eyes. Now, let’s get to the bottom of the risk factors. There are several factors that make it more likely that you’ll experience dry eyes:
- Being older than 50, when tear production naturally reduces
- Wearing contact lenses
- Being a woman, especially during pregnancy or menopause
- Eating a diet that is low in vitamin A
- Spending a lot of time using computers or other digital devices (which affects blinking)
Dry Eye Causes
Now that we’ve addressed the risk factors and symptoms of dry eyes, let’s dig into the distinct causes of dry eyes. Ultimately, dry eyes are caused by a lack of adequate tears. But inadequate tear production can have several causes.
Decreased Tear Production
Decreased tear production, or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (ker-uh-toe-kun-junk-tih-VY-tis SIK-uh), can have a variety of different causes:
- Medical conditions like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, and thyroid disorders
- Taking medications like antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement drugs, antidepressants, and certain birth control methods
- Laser eye surgery, although the effect is usually temporary
Increased Tear Evaporation
Occasionally, a patient’s eyes will produce adequate tears – but the tears will evaporate too quickly. There are several potential causes of increased tear evaporation:
- External factors like excessive wind, smoke, or dry air
- Blinking less often as a result of working at a computer, reading, or driving
- Eyelid problems, such as out-turning of the lids (ectropion)
Treating Dry Eyes
Dry eyes can be a nuisance. Fortunately, they’re extremely easy to treat and manage over time. Your eye doctor will likely prescribe one of the following to treat your dry eyes:
- Artificial Tears: Doctors will typically use artificial tears, or over-the-counter eye drops, to treat mild cases of dry eyes resulting from external factors like weather, computer use, or reading.
- Prescription Eye Drops: For more severe instances of dry eyes, doctors may opt for prescription eye drops like Restasis. These medicated drops do more than lubricate your eye; they actually reduce inflammation, making it easier for your eyes to naturally produce tears over time.
- Steroidal Eye Drops: If you experience chronic eye inflammation, your doctor may suggest a steroid eye drop. Steroid eye drops are your best option for managing inflammation that over-the-counter eye drops simply can’t.
- Heated Eye Shields: These devices help warm your eyes’ oil glands, which secrete oils onto the surface of the eyes, ensuring that tears don’t evaporate too quickly.
There are a wide variety of potential causes of dry eyes. Fortunately, dry eyes are very treatable. If you live in southwest Missouri and are struggling with dry eyes, contact Heffington’s for help.
Since 1975, the Heffington family has been assisting the Springfield community with top-quality eye care and affordable eyeglasses and contacts. One of the unique features of our family-owned business is that we manufacture lenses at our own laboratory, giving us total control over the service and pricing, and we’re happy to pass our savings on to you. To learn more about our products and services, please get in touch with us online, send an email to [email protected], or give us a call at 417-869-3937 (Optiland location) or 417-882-3937 (House of Vision location). We look forward to hearing from you!