What is dry eye?
Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes.
Dry eyes feel uncomfortable. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations.
What are the symptoms of dry eye?
Signs and symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, may include:
- A stinging, burning sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Difficulty with nighttime driving
- Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
What causes dry eye?
Dry eye can occur when basal tear production decreases, tear evaporation increases, or tear composition is imbalanced. Factors that can contribute to dry eye include the following:
- Medications including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms of menopause, and medications for anxiety, Parkinson’s disease, and high blood pressure have been associated with dry eye.
- The natural aging process, especially menopause
- Advancing age is a risk factor for declines in tear production. Dry eye is more common in people age 50 years or older.
- Rosacea and blepharitiscan disrupt the function of the Meibomian glands.
- Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseasesWomen are more likely to develop dry eyes. Women also have an increased risk for autoimmune disorders.
- Windy, smoky, or dry environments increase tear evaporation.
- Seasonal allergies can contribute to dry eye.
- Prolonged periods of screen time encourage insufficient blinking.
- Laser eye surgery may cause temporary dry eye symptoms.
Prevention of Dry Eyes
If you experience dry eyes, pay attention to the situations that are most likely to cause your symptoms. Then find ways to avoid those situations in order to prevent your dry eyes symptoms. For instance:
- Avoid air blowing in your eyes
Don’t direct hair dryers, car heaters, air conditioners or fans toward your eyes.
- Add moisture to the air
In winter, a humidifier can add moisture to dry indoor air.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses
Safety shields can be added to the tops and sides of eyeglasses to block wind and dry air. Ask about shields where you buy your eyeglasses.
- Take eye breaks during long tasks
If you’re reading or doing another task that requires visual concentration, take periodic eye breaks. Close your eyes for a few minutes. Or blink repeatedly for a few seconds to help spread your tears evenly over your eyes.
- Be aware of your environment
The air at high altitudes, in desert areas and in airplanes can be extremely dry. When spending time in such an environment, it may be helpful to frequently close your eyes for a few minutes at a time to minimize evaporation of your tears.
- Position your computer screen below eye level
If your computer screen is above eye level, you’ll open your eyes wider to view the screen. Position your computer screen below eye level so that you won’t open your eyes as wide. This may help slow the evaporation of your tears between eye blinks.
- Stop smoking
If you smoke, ask your doctor for help devising a quit-smoking strategy that’s most likely to work for you. If you don’t smoke, stay away from people who do. Smoke can worsen dry eyes symptoms.
- Use artificial tears regularly
If you have chronic dry eyes, use eyedrops even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated.