Dry eyes can be an incredibly frustrating experience, one that can range from uncomfortable to downright painful. Dry eyes occur when your eyes don’t make enough tears or when the tears that are produced can’t do their job of coating the surface of your eyes correctly. This condition, unfortunately, affects millions of people in the USA annually, often leading to reduced vision, health, and quality of life.
Keep reading to learn more about dry eye, including potential causes and treatments.
What Can Trigger Dry Eyes?
Identifying the source of your discomfort is essential for properly treating your eye condition. Age and genetics are other additional natural causes, while environment, lifestyle, and medications can also become insidious contributors to dryness. Certain ocular health issues can also cause tears to be insufficiently balanced in terms of lipids, water, and mucus to provide the lubrication needed for good eye health.
Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)
This occurs when an abnormality or blockage in the small meibomian glands in your lower eyelid hinders them from producing adequate lipids to maintain balance and quality within the tears. The lack of these essential components leads to the quick evaporation of tears, causing discomfort and soreness in the eyes.
This is an inflammation of the eyelids that affects the area around the base of the eyelashes. It results in swollen and red eyelids and the production of infected debris called ‘scurf’. Those afflicted with it may experience unpleasant symptoms, including excessive itchiness, burning sensations, and discomfort.
Seasonal changes can wreak havoc on our eyes, exposing them to huge amounts of pollen and allergens in the air. This can trigger an immune response in certain people, leading to inflammation and dry eyes. This doesn’t just lower their quality of life – it can also cause discomfort, tearing, and even an inability to open or close their eyes due to sensitivity.
Women have always faced unique challenges due to changing hormones. Unfortunately, this often includes experiencing dry eyes due to hormonal fluctuations related to pregnancy, breastfeeding, menopause, and birth control medication. The culprits behind the dryness are believed to be changes in hormone levels, such as estrogen and progesterone, which can affect the oil glands in the eyes.
Side Effects of Certain Drugs
The side effects of certain drugs can cause more than just discomfort; they can also leave your eyes feeling dry, irritated and scratchy. Anticholinergic medications like antidepressants can impinge upon the normal functioning of the lacrimal glands and trigger dry eye syndrome. When this happens, tears aren’t produced as regularly, leading to a sensation of sandpaper-like discomfort in the eyes, making them red and tired throughout the day.
How Is Dry Eye Diagnosed?
Through techniques such as Schirmer’s test, doctors can measure the amount of tears produced with a simple piece of paper. Furthermore, tear film breakup time uses a staining dye to monitor the duration that tears stay resting on surface areas.
A fluorescein dye is also used in combination with blue light; this process helps determine micro-abrasions in the corneal epithelium.
The Amount of Tears your Eyes Make
Every year, up to 15-30 gallons of tears are produced by lacrimal glands above your eyes. With each blink, those tears spread across the eye surface and then drain into tiny holes in the corners of your upper and lower lids. From there, they journey down through narrow channels to your tear ducts, connecting them with your nose.
How Long it Takes for your Tears to dry up
Crying in cold or hot weather are the two factors that can speed up or slow down the process respectively. Although it may seem like the tears evaporate instantly, the truth is that it typically takes 2 to 4 minutes for one’s eyes to dry up and return to their normal state. Of course, this time is only a general estimate and will vary depending on the individual’s body and environment.
The Structure of your Eyelids
Each eyelid is made up of three different layers. It contains a fibrous plate called the tarsus, which gives it shape and structure. This is reinforced by muscles that move the eyelids in synchronization with each other and are lined with delicate mucous membranes. Finally, the area is covered with skin and bordered with a fringe of eyelashes.
These components all play an important part in lubricating and protecting your eyes from dust, dirt and other foreign particles. If any of these components become blocked or damaged, it can cause dry eyes.
How Are Dry Eyes Treated?
Depending on what’s causing your irritation, the best action could be anything from minor lifestyle changes to more intensive treatments. While it can take some trial and error to find the right treatment plan, you can ensure that your eyes stay hydrated and happy without too much trouble with the right guidance.
Over-the-counter Eye Drops and Ointments
There are a variety of over-the-counter treatments that can help bring relief. Artificial tears eye drops are one of the common treatments that work to restore moisture in the eyes, providing almost instant relief. If you have particularly severe cases of dry eye syndrome, you might want to take things one step further by using an ointment or gel specifically designed for moisturizing.
If your dry eye persists, more serious solutions, such as prescription medicines, may need to be explored. Cyclosporine (Restasis) cream and Lifitegrast (Xiidra) eye drops have been developed to boost tear production, helping your eyes stay hydrated and comfortable. These medications also help reduce inflammation on the ocular surface.
Treating dry eyes can involve lifestyle changes that aim to protect your eyes and other measures. Your doctor may suggest that you avoid smoke, wind, and air conditioning and use a humidifier to keep the air at home from becoming too dry. Reducing screen time and taking frequent breaks from staring at screens can also help.
Tear duct plugs
Tear duct plugs are an effective way of treating dry eyes. Put simply, these medical-grade plugs are placed in the small holes in the inner corners of your eyes to prevent tears from flowing out too quickly. Punctal plugs can give you immediate, noticeable relief and prevent future episodes of dry eye symptoms.
If your dry eye is caused by too much loose skin on the lower eyelid, eye surgery may be necessary, thus allowing tears to drain away quickly from the eyes. Your optometrist can advise on whether this procedure is suitable for you, as it’s relatively rare. However, it could be effective in restoring your eyes’ natural moisture level. Although it might sound daunting, modern-day techniques lead to minimal discomfort and a speedy recovery.
Home Remedies for Dry Eyes: What Works?
Applying warm compresses to your eyes is one option that many people find success in reducing redness and irritation. Eating oily fish like salmon, mackerel, or sardines may also help as they are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids which helps to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Other options include Wearing wrap-around sunglasses outside to protect your eyes from the elements. Additionally, drinking lots of water (8 to 10 glasses daily) and having enough quality sleep every night (7 to 8 hours) can go a long way toward relieving your symptoms. Visit https://dryeyedirectory.com/dry-eyes/ for more information.
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Dry Eye Directory,
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