What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry Eye Syndrome is a common cause of eye irritation. When your eyes feel like they are not producing enough moisture, you may have Dry Eye Syndrome. Dry eyes are caused by changes in the quality or quantity of your tears.
When a person has Dry Eye Syndrome, inflammatory changes in the tear producing glands and in the eye’s surface, can interfere with the production of normal tears. When this occurs, the eye produces fewer tears that are less effective, this causes the tear film that covers the eye to evaporate rapidly, resulting in less moisture and protection for the surface of the eyes. With tear protection diminished, the eyes may experience the painful symptoms of dry eye. Without treatment, damage to the surface of the eyes may occur and this may lead to infection or impaired vision when left unaddressed.
Dry Eye Syndrome is a very common condition, it is believed to be one of the number one reasons people go to visit an eye doctor. It generally does not lead to long term damage to the eyes.
What causes dry eyes?
Dry Eye begins when there is not enough tears to lubricate your eyes and not enough oil to keep the tears protective coating on your eyes. Not blinking enough can also contribute to the problem. Our eyes are always making tears but most of the time we do not notice. If tears, oil production or blinking become affected this may trigger Dry Eye Syndrome. The causes of dry eye can vary.
Some of the most common causes of Dry Eye Syndrome:
- Wearing contact lenses for long periods of time.
- Prolonged exposure to aircon, heating, windy environments and other changes in external environment such as dust, debris and bacteria.
- Repeated exposure to blue light from smartphones, computers, tablets and other devices.
- Old age.
- Prescription medications.
- Eye damage through injury or from a surgical procedure.
- Changes in the body’s nervous system, changes in hormonal balance or in the immune system.
- Vitamin A deficiency which could be related to diet or poor vitamin absorption.
Dry Eye Syndrome is a very common problem that occurs for older people. As we age we become more prone to dry eyes due to the tear glands becoming less productive over time.
What are the symptoms of Dry Eye?
The main symptoms of dry eye are burning, grittiness, irritation, stinging and the eyes may appear bloodshot. It can often feel like there is something in the eyes, preventing you from being able to relax and blink normally. You may feel tempted to continuously rub and massage the eyes to help spread moisture across the surface however this can irritate the problem further. You can often experience tiredness from this problem with the desire to sleep or keep the eyes closed.
Ironically one of the most common signs of dry eye is tearing / excess water and it will usually affect both eyes. It is possible to also experience some problems with vision such as a little blurring or your eyes may feel sensitive to light. If you wear contact lenses this may become very uncomfortable and it is advised to avoid wearing them until the normal moisture of the eye has returned.
What is the best treatment for dry eyes?
It is possible to be tested by an eye specialist to confirm the cause of your dry eyes. This can be performed using special equipment that will test the fluid / tears produced by the eyes showing how much is being produced and whether there is enough coverage / protection. Through this testing the eye specialist will be able to review the overall severity and can then help provide the best solution for treatment.
If lack of tears is the problem, you can improve the moisture with artificial tears / eye drops / gel which can be bought over the counter at a pharmacy. These help inject the eye with a surge of moisture and there are also brands available that will help restore the oil flow that helps the moisture to stay coated to the eye. If you are contact lense wearer ensure you speak to your optometrist to find out the best solution for you. It may be wise to switch to prescription glasses for some time to help allow the fluid in both eyes to naturally regulate.
There are a range of natural remedies which can help ease the symptoms of dry eyes:
- Instead of constantly rubbing the eyes, wash them frequently with warm water or apply a warm water compress.
- A hard one for many of us to avoid these days but try to avoid spending too much time looking at blue light devices such as your phone, computer or tablet.
- When this is unavoidable, keep consciously blinking to retain the natural fluid coverage of the eyes.
- Consider purchasing protective blue light blocking glasses.
- Cold cucumber placed upon the eyes will help sooth them.
- Drink plenty of water. Keeping hydrated can help ease Dry Eye Syndrome.
- Applying castor oil around the eyelids helps in retaining the natural moisture of the eye. This an age old magical solution to the problem
- Warm coconut oil applied on to the eyes twice daily also offers the same qualities.
You can also help prevent the symptoms of dry eye through maintaining a healthy diet containing a sufficient amount of Vitamin A / fatty acids. Foods such as cod liver oil, butter, egg yolks, chia seeds, oily fish and leafy greens are all great sources of Vitamin A and Omega-3.