Low Amount of Tears
Dry eye conditions can develop due to problems that cause a low amount of tear production. Glands in the eyes need to make an adequate amount of tears in order to protect eye surfaces. These tears also play a role in ensuring clear vision. Problems with tear glands typically start occurring as people age.
Poor Tear Quality
For some people, dry eyes occur due to poor tear quality. Tears consist of layers of mucus, oil and water. Mucus distributes tears across the eye’s surface, and oil stops tears from evaporating or drying up too quickly. In some cases, problems with the water layer lead to dry eye symptoms.
People over 50 years old start to have a higher risk of developing dry eyes as they get older. The eyes produce fewer tears overall as part of the aging process. Dry eye symptoms are common in people over 65 years old.
Some types of medication, such as medication for high blood pressure, can result in decreased tear production and a higher risk of dry eyes. Decongestants, antihistamines and antidepressants can also cause this to occur.
Women have an increased risk of dry eyes due to pregnancy, menopause and other hormonal changes. Taking oral birth control pills can also raise the risk of having dry eye conditions.
Underlying Health Issues
People who have certain underlying medical conditions, such as thyroid issues or diabetes, have a higher risk of developing dry eyes.
Certain eye problems, such as eyelid inflammation known as blepharitis or eye inflammation, have an increased risk of experiencing dry eye symptoms.
Having a diet that includes low amounts of omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin A has been associated with a higher risk of having dry eyes.
Exposure to Smoke
Being exposed to smoke on a regular basis can cause tears to evaporate more quickly, leading to dry eye conditions.
Exposure to windy conditions regularly, especially in a dry environment, is linked to a higher risk of dry eye symptoms.
Living in a dry climate can lead to rapid evaporation of tears, which increases the chance of developing dry eyes.
Staring at a computer, tablet or phone screen without blinking often or regularly can raise the risk of having dry eyes.
Refractive Eye Surgery
Having LASIK surgery or another type of refractive eye surgery can reduce tear production, resulting in dry eye symptoms.
Long-term Contact Lens Use
Wearing contact lenses on a long-term basis has been associated with an increased chance of having dry eye symptoms.
Signs & Symptoms
- A feeling that there is grit in the eyes
- Stinging sensation
- Burning sensation
- Red eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Discomfort while wearing contacts
- Trouble driving at night
- Mucus around the eyes or in the eyes
- Blurry vision
- Excessive wateriness in the eyes
- Eye fatigue
If you have been experiencing symptoms of dry eyes in one or bother eyes, your eye doctor can diagnose this during a comprehensive eye exam. This starts with your eye doctor going over your medical history to check for underlying health issues or eye problems that could raise the risk of dry eye conditions. Your eye doctor will also gather information on other risk factors, such as medications you are taking or environmental factors you might be exposed to on a regular basis.
Your eye doctor will examine your eyelids to look for problems that could affect tear production or cause other issues that raise your risk of dry eyes. You might also have tests done to evaluate the quality of your tears. These involve the use of dyes that provide your eye doctor with information on how long your tears take to evaporate. Your eye doctor will also check the condition of the outer surface of each eye with these tests for changes that can occur due to low tear production.
Diagnosing dry eye conditions might also involve having the volume of your tears measured. Your eye doctor might use the Schirmer test to do this, which involves placing blotting strips under each lower eyelid. Your eye doctor will check to see how moist these strips are from your tears after about 5 minutes. This helps your eye doctor determine whether or not your eyes are producing enough tears.
Dry Eye Treatments
Treatment for dry eye symptoms depends on certain factors, such as how mild or severe this condition is, what is causing it and whether or not there are underlying eye problems or medical conditions that need to be managed. For people with mild dry eyes, eye doctors sometimes recommend over-the-counter artificial tears to keep the eyes moist. In some cases, eye doctors recommend a procedure, such as punctual plugs, to prevent tears from evaporating too quickly.
Nutritional Supplements for Dry Eyes
Nutritional supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids typically found in fish oil supplements, have been the focus of studies on dry eye symptoms and other eye and vision problems. For example, a 2008 study showed that omega-3 dietary supplements might help improve blepharitis and problems with the meibomian glands, which are associated with dry eye symptoms. Based on the findings of this study and other studies on omega-3 fatty acids, Focus Relief Plus® provides these nutrients to help those with mild dry eye symptoms. To ensure that omega-3 fatty acids are optimally absorbed, Focus Relief Plus® contains re-estrified triglycerides, which have been associated with improved bioavailability.