Do you experience eye discomfort, itching, burning or excessive tearing? Dry eyes may be the cause. Not only is this an annoying problem, but dry eyes can also affect the health of your eyes and the quality of your vision. Read on to discover more about this condition and what you can do.
Dry eyes: a common problem as we age
Dry eyes, also called dry eye syndrome, are relatively common. It is estimated to affect between 5% and 30% of the population, with a higher proportion of women. At first glance, it may seem trivial, but when it causes discomfort or interferes with daily life or vision, it's time to look for a solution.
How well hydrated is the eye?
To better understand dry eyes, it's helpful to understand how the eye works. The eye's lacrimal ducts secrete tears that contain several constituents: water, salt, oil, glucose and proteins. The tears are distributed evenly over the eye each time we blink to maintain a thin tear film that lubricates and nourishes the eye, protects it from infection by removing foreign particles, and moisturizes the cornea.
Causes and symptoms of dry eyes
Several things cause dry eyes; aging, hormonal changes and your environment are common triggers, as well as diet, eye surgery, medications and allergies. The result is too few or poor-quality tears that cannot support a healthy tear film.
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from dry eyes:
- Burning or foreign body sensation ("grain of sand")
- Itchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Irritation/redness, especially when exposed to wind or smoke
- Eye fatigue, especially at the end of the day or during activities requiring concentration (reading, computer work, knitting, etc.)
- Sensitivity to light
Prevention is a good ally!
Fortunately, there are things you can do daily to protect your eyes from dryness:
- Remind yourself to blink. Just thinking about blinking helps
- Wear glasses or sunglasses to protect your eyes from wind or sunlight.
- Avoid exposing your eyes to air conditioning or fans. Even hair dryers can be a problem
- Use a humidifier to counteract dry winter air.
- Keep computer screens below eye level.
- Follow your optician's or optometrist's contact lens wear and care recommendations.
- Rest your eyes after 45 minutes of screen activity or reading by closing them or blinking often to distribute the tear film.
- Quit smoking.
The simplest and quickest treatment for dry eyes is artificial tears to compensate for the tear deficit. This approach usually provides relief for mild cases of dry eyes. If symptoms are more severe or persist, consult your optometrist. Your eye care professional can offer you effective, long-lasting treatments.
To learn more about dry eye treatments, click this link.