Your Questions Answered
By Dr Veerle Van Tricht
Dry eyes is a common condition that occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for many reasons – for example, dry eyes may occur if you don’t produce enough tears or if you produce poor-quality tears.
Dry eyes feel uncomfortable – your eyes may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.
Treatments for dry eyes may make you more comfortable. These treatments can include lifestyle changes and eye drops (artificial tears). You may need to take these measures indefinitely to control the symptoms of dry eyes
- Signs and symptoms, which usually affect both eyes, may include:
- A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
- Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness
- A sensation of having something in your eyes
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses
- Difficulty with night-time driving
- Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
- Blurred vision or eye fatigue
Dry eyes are caused by a lack of adequate tears. Your tears are a complex mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus. This mixture helps make the surface of your eyes smooth and clear, and it helps protect your eyes from infection.
For some people, the cause of dry eyes is decreased tear production. For others it’s increased tear evaporation and an imbalance in the makeup of your tears.
Factors that make it more likely that you’ll experience dry eyes include:
- Being older than 50. Tear production tends to diminish as you get older. Dry eyes are more common in people over 50.
- Being a woman. A lack of tears is more common in women, especially if they experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause.
- Eating a diet that is low in vitamin A, which is found in liver, carrots and broccoli, or low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils
- Wearing contact lenses
- You smoke or drink alcohol
- You take certain medicines (for example, some antidepressants or blood pressure drugs)
- You have a condition, such as blepharitis, Sjögren’s syndrome or lupus
People who have dry eyes may experience these complications:
- Eye infections.Your tears protect the surface of your eyes from infection. Without adequate tears, you may have an increased risk of eye infection.
- Damage to the surface of your eyes.If left untreated, severe dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation, abrasion of the corneal surface, corneal ulcer and vision problems.
- Decreased quality of life.Dry eyes can make it difficult to perform everyday activities, such as reading.
For most people with occasional or mild dry eye symptoms, it’s enough to regularly use over-the-counter eye drops (artificial tears). If your symptoms are persistent and more serious, you have other options. What you do depends on what’s causing your dry eyes.
Some treatments focus on reversing or managing a condition or factor that’s causing your dry eyes. Other treatments can improve your tear quality or stop your tears from quickly draining away from your eyes.
Prescription medications can be used to treat dry eyes
Other procedures that may be used to treat dry eyes include:
- Closing your tear ducts to reduce tear loss.
- Using light therapy and eyelid massage.
- Using special contact lenses
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.
- Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses or other protective eyewear.
- 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 and avoid smoke.
- Use artificial tears regularly.If you have chronic dry eyes, use eye drops even when your eyes feel fine to keep them well-lubricated.
See an optician or GP if:
You’ve had prolonged signs and symptoms of dry eyes, including red, irritated, tired or painful eyes.
I can prescribe the top grade lubricants like VisuXL and Thealoz Duo (GP’s are unable to prescribe these) and Ikervis for Sjogren Syndrome.
Call me on 07900 842692 to book an appointment.
Ask for an urgent appointment if: You have any changes to your vision, such as loss of vision.
If you have any concerns regarding your sight, please don’t hesitate to contact me for advice. Telephone: 01633 244023 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org