Dry eyes occur when there aren’t enough tears to moisten, lubricate and protect your eyes.
Your tear glands constantly produce small amounts of tears and when you blink they spread over the surface of your eyeball. When your eyes are healthy, a layer of tears always covers the eyes, although you probably don’t notice it unless the tears spill out of your eye when you laugh or cry.
If you’re suffering from dry eyes, even blinking frequently won’t allow you to generate enough tears to moisten your eyes.
Tear-deficient dry eyes is when your eye is unable to produce enough tears. This means that the layer of tears over the eye breaks down, leaving patches on the surface of the eye exposed to the air.
Evaporative dry eyes is when you produce enough tears, but what you produce evaporates quickly, so the surface of the eye can’t be kept moist.
There are many causes of dry eyes, including biological and environmental factors and even diet.
Tear-deficient dry eyes is a condition commonly associated with age, because tear production tends to slow with age. This is particularly true of menopausal and postmenopausal women, because a drop in estrogen can reduce mucus production, leading to dry eyes.
Evaporative dry eyes can be caused by:
- Spending too much time focusing on close objects such as a computer screen. The reason for this is that the number of times you blink decreases when an object is close, reducing the flow of tears covering the eyes.
- Air conditioning or heating. Cooled and heated air is typically drier than natural air, which causes the eyes to dry out more quickly.
- Weather. Cold, windy weather can also dry out the eyes in the same way it can dry out your skin. Hence, many people find that their eyes feel drier in winter. This is the cumulative effect of cold weather and more time spent indoors with the heating on, often in front of a TV or computer screen for longer than you might in the summer.
- Vitamin deficiencies, such as a lack of Vitamin A or Vitamin D, can also cause evaporative dry eyes.
In general, people with dry eyes describe their condition simply as dry eyes. However, there might be other associated symptoms such as:
- Red, swollen or painful eyes
- Itching on or around the eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Contact lens discomfort
- Sandy or gritty feeling eyes
- Blurry vision
- Eyelids sticking together, particularly when you wake up
Strangely enough, one symptom of dry eyes is watery eyes. This is because as your eyes become dry, your tear ducts over-produce tears to replace lost moisture.
There are ways to relieve the discomfort brought about by dry eyes.
Try to limit your exposure to factors that aggravate the symptoms—avoid air conditioning or reduce the time you spend using a computer. When sitting at a computer, some people find it useful to put a sticky note next to their screen simply reminding them to blink, as this keeps the eyes moist.
If you wear contact lenses, make sure to follow the proper cleaning procedure given by your optician. Take your contacts out before your eyes get dry. By this we mean that if you’re working all day and know that you’re going out in the evening, try to take your contact lenses out for an hour or so in between to give your eyes a rest and, most importantly, to clean and refresh your contact lenses.
Most people suffering from dry eyes get relief from eye drops containing lubricants.
A.Vogel Eye Drops contain euphrasia, a plant also known as eyebright because of its history in treating eye problems that dates to the 14th century. These drops are great for dry, tired and irritated eyes, and the specially designed bottle keeps the drops sterile without the need for preservatives.
Contact lens wearers will be pleased to know that these drops can be used while wearing your lenses.
Most people suffering from dry eyes find that their symptoms come and go without the need for medical attention. However, in certain circumstances, you should see your doctor:
- Your dry eyes are unexplained or you're worried about your condition
- Your vision is affected
- You think your dry eyes may be the result of another medical condition