Have you ever noticed that your eye frequently feels so dry after a long stare in front of a computer screen or after wearing contact lenses? If yes, you could be having a dry eye syndrome
+ What is dry eye?
Dry eye is a common eye problem when the tears are not enough or not good enough to lubricate the eye. This condition happens a lot in people nowadays, especially to anyone who has a sedentary lifestyle engaging in such activities as reading, watching and using digital devices. According to Eye Health Statistics, there are around 4.88 million American who is 50 and above have dry eye.
Although dry eye is not dangerous, it might be chronic and progressive to the point that becoming completely incurable. However, you don’t have to worry too much about that. In most cases, dry eyes can be treated successfully. Patients can feel a lot more comfortable, and their vision can improve more sharply.
People with frequent dry eye usually experience discomfort in their eyes accompanied by other symptoms such as feeling a sharp sting or a burning sensation. Aside from long screening time on the computer, you can also have dry eye when you are driving a motorbike, staying in an air-conditioned room or on an airplane.
Dry eye syndrome is known by many other names. Sometimes it’s also called dry eye disease or just dry eye. There are also some other medical terms used to differentiate the effect of the syndrome, including Keratitis sicca, Keratoconjunctivitis sicca and Dysfunctional tear syndrome. While the first one generally refers to dryness and inflammation of the cornea, the second type affects both the cornea and conjunctiva, the last term relates to the quality and quantity of tears produced.
+ What causes dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye basically occurs when your eyes lack of quality tears. Tears are important because it helps to make the surface of the eyes moist and clear, and also prevent infections. Good quality tears are a mixture containing water, fatty oils, and mucus. The cause of dry eyes can vary from one to another. While someone has a dry eye as the result of decreased tear production, others have problems with their tear quality. Let’s look at some of these common causes here:
Decreased tear production
This condition has its medical term called keratoconjunctivitis sicca. When the tear glands cannot be able to produce enough tears, your eyes will get dry because it is not moisturised properly. Aging process, medical conditions or side effects are the common causes of decreased tear production.
Here are some of the other common causes:
- Some medical conditions such as diabetes, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disorders and lack of vitamin A will decrease tear production.
- Medications including antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants and drugs used to treat high blood pressure, birth control and Parkinson’s disease are also among the causes
- After laser eye surgery, you also experience dry eye syndrome, although only for a short time
- Damage from the tear gland also makes it malfunctions properly
Fast tear evaporation rate
Environmental conditions also sometimes contribute to the case. Weather elements such as strong wind or dry climate can make your tears to evaporate faster than usual, and therefore makes your eyes becoming dry.
- Some common causes deplete the quantity of your tears
- Strong wind, smoky air can easily make your eye dry
- Intense concentration when reading, driving or using a computer can make your eyes blink less which is unable to moisture the surface
- Ectropion and entropion also are the common causes
Poor tear components
The main three components of the tear are oil, water, and mucus. Each of these components functions differently to protect the vulnerable tear film. While oil provides a smooth layer to prevent water from evaporating, the mucin layer helps to balance tears on the eye's surface. If one of these three-layer tears fail to work properly, dry eye syndrome will develop.
For example blocked meibomian glands are very common in people who have blepharitis or skin disorders. In this case, the oil film might be clogged and cannot trap water in the eyes to moisturize it.
Poor tear quality is the most common cause of dry eye. This condition is also called keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)
Other potential risks
Aside from the above common causes, other factors also pose the risk of developing dry eye:
- Aging process: it’s just simple that the older you are, the less tear you get. People over 50 years old have a high risk of having dry eyes.
- Female matters: women have a tendency to develop dry eye more than men due to their hormonal changes during pregnancy or to the effect of using birth control pills.
- Diet plan: a proper diet can also make you have a dry eye because a lack of vitamin A found in certain foods such as liver, carrots, and broccoli.
- Contact lenses: contact lenses wearers experience dry eye more than others as wearing contact lenses can block the oxygen flow in the eyes and make tears evaporate faster.
+ Symptoms of dry eyes
Dry eyes symptoms appear in many ways and often followed by some uncomfortable feelings such as stinging, burning or scratching. Although this may sound very strange, watery eyes can also be one of the symptoms. The reason why your eyes become watery is because as a protective mechanism, the eyes sometimes will respond to dryness by overproducing tears to moisturize the eyes. However, this reflex reaction is rare and usually does not last long enough to solve the problem.
Here are some obvious common symptoms that will affect both your eyes:
- You feel like something is stinging and burning your eyes.
- Lots of mucus staying around your eyes.
- Your eyes become too sensitive to the light and it might be blur or not clear while reading.
- It might develop eye redness if you have dry eyes for a long time
- Having dry eye will make it unbearable when wearing contact lenses
- You might find it difficult to drive while your eyes are dry
- You feel irritated when standing near someone smoking or strong wind.
+ The complications
Dry eye does not leave you with any serious complications, but it can cause inflammation and damage to the eye’s surface, even permanently.
In some cases, dry eye can lead to some of these scenarios:
- Eye infections: one of the main purposes of tears are to protect the eyes from infection. When tears are deficient, the surface of your eyes are exposed to infections.
- Damage to the surface of the eyes: severe dry eye, if not treated properly, may lead to eye inflammation and other vision problems
- Affect quality of life: dry eye can make it difficult for you to perform daily activities such as reading, driving or using machinery.
- Reduce the effectiveness of eye surgery: although, having a dry eye syndrome after LASIK surgery is quite common, but if last long enough, it can affect the outcomes.
+ When to See a doctor?
In most cases, you can attend dry eye with home care or using some eye drops for frequent dry eye. However, chronic dry eye or any prolonged signs of the syndrome can indicate some other problems.
Go to see your doctor as soon as possible if the dryness does not go away in 2 or 3 days, and when you see red or feel fatigued on the eyes. An eye specialist can determine what happens to your eyes and offer necessary advice.
+ How dry eyes are diagnosed?
A very common method used to diagnose dry eye is called a comprehensive eye examination. This method is a combination of tests to evaluate the quality and the quantity of tears produced by the tear gland. These tests may include:
- Medical background check to find out whether past using drugs might contribute to the dry eye problem
- Examination of the external eye components such as lid structure and blink dynamics
- Assess the eyelids and cornea by light and magnification
- Measure the quantity and quality of tears for any uncommon
The findings from these tests will help optometrist to determine the severity of your dry eye syndrome and offer proper treatment.
+ How to relieve dry eye syndrome?
Dry eyes can be assisted by several treatment options. Most likely the doctor will offer you different methods based on the severity of your syndrome and current health.
Here are some of the best ways to relieve dry eyes. Note that you should always consult a doctor before using if you are not sure whether you are suitable for it.
Using Artificial tears
Artificial tears are suitable for mild cases of dry eye caused by long screening time on the computer or intensively over-concentration.
These products are also called lubricating eye drops and are available everywhere. It contains many active ingredients and viscosity, an ingredient that makes drops thicker
Drops with low viscosity can be watery and often offer a fast-act relief effect without blurring your vision, but not very long-lasting.
Restasis or also known as Allergan is another alternative to OTC artificial tears. These drops not only lubricate the surface of the eyes but also reduce inflammation and boost up tear production to keep the eyes moist.
It’s important to know that the effect of using these drops does not come right away. A minimum of 90 days is required in order to get the full benefits of this treatment.
Xiidra is a prescription eye drops known as ZYE-drug. This drops work similar to Restasis. However, there is a downside to this treatment.
The most common side effects is known so far are irritation and visual acuity reduction.
Using Steroid eye drops
These drops are used as a temporary treatment to quickly relieve the symptoms. People usually use Steroid eye drops together with Restasis or Xiidra to get the best out of it.
However, it also has potential side effects, so make sure that you talk to the doctor before purchasing and using them.
Taking Nutritional supplements
Nutrition such as omega-3 fatty acids can tackle dry eye syndrome. These nutrients can be found in certain foods such as salmon, sardines, and cod. Include these sources in your daily diet can help you to reduce the risk of having frequent dry eye and improve your vision.
+ What is prevention for dry eye?
It is important to pay attention to the cause of your dry eye so you can avoid that next time.
- Avoid wind or air blowing directly to your eyes
- Keep indoor air balance by adding moisture to the room during the winter season
- Choose proper sunglasses for protection when you go outside
- Practice the 20-20-20 eye rules to prevent dry eye
- Adjust the computer screen appropriately to the eye level
- Use artificial lubricant tears more often
An easier way to get quick relief for your dry eyes is to practice some of these methods:
- Blink more: people who blink less have a higher chance of having a dry eye than those who blink more. Especially whenever you are working on a computer or reading a book
- Take more breaks: practice 20-20-20 rules during computer use sessions. This rule requires you to look at something in a distance of 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. This will help to reduce the chance of having a dry eye.
- Wraparound-style eyewear: using wraparound eye-wear can protect your eyes from weather element and irritating debris which is one of the main causes of dry eye.