The Causes of Dry Eye Problems
Dry eye is an extremely common condition where tears do not sufficiently lubricate and nourish the eye. People who experience dry eye either do not produce enough tears or have poor quality tears that do not lubricate effectively. Tears are crucial for reducing the risk of eye infection, rinsing away foreign debris, and keeping the surface of the eye clear and smooth.
Symptoms of dry eye include irritation, gritty, scratchy, or burning sensation in the eyes, excess watering, and blurred vision. Without proper treatment, dry eye can damage the surface of the eye and impair vision.
Dry eye is often chronic, meaning it will not go away by itself, and progressive, meaning it will get worse over time.
The most common form of dry eye is called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) or dry eye syndrome, and occurs when there is an inadequate amount of the water layer in tears or a poor tear film being produced by the glands in the eyelids.
Dry eye has many different causes, including:
- Age—as you age, your eyes naturally become dryer. Most people over the age of 50 will experience dry eye symptoms.
- Gender—women are more likely to develop dry eye than men due to hormone changes caused by pregnancy, menopause, and the use or oral contraceptives.
- Medications—antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, and other medications can decrease tear production, causing dry eye.
- Environmental Conditions—exposure to smoke, wind, flying on an airplane and dry air can tears to evaporate more quickly than normal, which dries out the eyes.
- Computer Screens—staring at a screen for long periods of time can cause people to blink less often than is normal, which can result in dry eyes.
- Contact Lenses or LASIK Surgery—people who wear contact lenses and those who have had refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK surgery are more susceptible to dry eye.
- Inflammation—in the past several years, researchers have discovered a significant link between inflammation in the body and dry eye.
- Blepharitis and Meibomian Gland Dysfunction—this is a common chronic condition involving inflammation of the eyelids. If blepharitis occurs, there is decreased secretion from these glands creating a poor tear film layer that increase evaporation rates of tears causing dry eye.
At Georgia Eye Partners, our initial goal is to diagnose and identify dry eye, and then provide maximum relief from your dry eye symptoms. Treatment will range from palliative methods such as over-the-counter lubricants to therapeutic treatments such as Restasis, which is an immunomodulator that reduces inflammation.
Once your dry eye symptoms begin to improve, your doctor will work with you to discover the underlying cause of your dry eyes. Inflammation, which is a common underlying cause of dry eye, can cause many other health problems, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, hot flashes, night sweats, cold body temperature, and digestive problems.
Below are some common causes of dry eye that your doctor may evaluate:
- Hormone Imbalance—especially common in females and more common during menopause.
- Thyroid—Under or overactive thyroid gland function
- Iodine Levels—If the thyroid is functioning at less than optimum levels, it may be due to improper iodine levels in your body. Iodine plays a crucial role in the function of all secretory glands.
- Vitamin D—has a key role in the immune function of the body
- Chronic Food Allergy—especially allergies to gluten and/or dairy
- Lifestyle Issues—bad diet, dehydration, lack of sleep, and smoking can all increase inflammation in the body
- Stress—being over-stressed can exhaust your body’s ability to reduce inflammation
- Immune Diseases-systemic diseases can directly cause dry eye
Your Georgia Eye Partners doctor will discuss all test results with you in detail to keep you closely involved in your dry eye treatment plan. The ultimate goal of your therapy is to provide sustained relief from your dry eye symptoms by getting to the root of the problem.