Understanding Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome is also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, though many just call it “dry eyes”. All these terms refer to the same condition when your eyes don’t create enough tears. The tears may also evaporate too quickly.

This is a chronic condition, and it’s progressive as well. You should have an eye doctor take a look at it as it can get worse.

Symptoms of Dry Eyes

For the most part the symptoms are mild. However, some cases are pretty severe, and they can become painful and even lead to more serious complications.

The most common symptoms include the following:

  • Red eyes.
  • When you wake up, your eyelids are stuck together.
  • Both your eyes feel sore, dry, or gritty, and this feeling gets worse as the day goes.
  • Sometimes your vision goes blurry, but it becomes better when you blink.
  • Your eyes may also water, when you instinctively produce tears to relieve the irritation.

Even if your symptoms are mild, you should see an eye doctor right away if they’re persistent. You should also see your doctor if your vision gets worse, if you feel any pain, or you’ve become much more sensitive to light.

If not treated, it can lead to conjunctivitis or inflammation of the cornea—which in turn can put your sight at risk.

Common Causes of Dry Eyes

In general, dry eyes happen when something disrupts the complicated process of tear production. There are actually numerous possible ways for this to happen, and in some cases there may be more than one reason for your dry eyes.

The most common causes of dry eyes include the following:

  • You wear contact lenses.
  • You live in a windy or dry climate.
  • You have an underlying medical condition which results in dry eyes. These include inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis).
  • The dry eyes syndrome can also be a side effect of the medication you’re taking. These include diuretics, beta blockers, antidepressants, and antihistamines.
  • It can also be caused by certain hormonal changes. The condition is more common among women, and that’s because it can be caused by taking contraceptive pills, pregnancy, and menopause.
  • You’re getting older. The chances of getting dry eyes increases with advancing age. About 33% of all people over 65 years old have dry eyes.

Treating Dry Eyes

There are several possible treatments for dry eyes, and the right one depends greatly on the cause and severity of the problem. In general, here are the treatment options:

  • If it’s caused by an underlying condition, then treating that condition solves the dry eyes problem.
  • If it’s a side effect of your medication, your doctor can prescribe a different alternative.
  • If you’re wearing contact lenses, a different type of contact lens may solve the problem.
  • You may need eye drops that can lubricate your eyes.
  • In some cases that involve inflammation, you’ll probably need medication.
  • Severe cases may even require surgery.

Preventing Dry Eyes

There are some measures you can take to reduce the severity of the symptoms or even prevent them altogether.

  • Use your computer devices properly to avoid eye strain.
  • Keep your eyes and eyelids clean.
  • Protect your eyes from dust, smoke, and windy conditions.
  • Use a humidifier if you live in a dry climate.
  • Eat a healthy diet rich with vitamins C and E, with lots of omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and zinc.

Just check with your eye doctor regularly so that you can prevent dry eyes or have them diagnosed as early as possible.