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Dry Eyes: Causes, Symptoms, and Relief


Closeup of man's eye with smile lines

Do you ever have the feeling of something being in your eye, but there is nothing there? Or an itchy or burning sensation that interrupts your vision throughout the day? Dry eye could be the culprit!


Let's talk about it!


Millions of people in the US suffer from Dry Eye Syndrome. It is a common affliction that can cause discomfort and even vision problems. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be disruptive to daily life at any range.


The good news? Relief is available! Let's get to know the causes, symptoms, and treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome.


What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eyes?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the common symptoms of Dry Eyes include:

  • A stinging, burning, or scratchy sensation in your eyes

  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes

  • Sensitivity to light

  • Eye redness

  • A feeling of having something in your eyes, or "grittiness"

  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses

  • Difficulty with nighttime driving

  • Watery eyes, which is the body's response to the irritation of dry eyes

  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue

These symptoms can range from mild to severe and can be disruptive to daily life at any level of occurrence.


illustration of five eyes with various dry eye symptoms

Chronic Dry Eye is often caused by obstructed oil glands located in your eyelids. This condition is known as Meibomian Gland Dysfunction or MGD.

There are many treatments for dry eyes ranging from immediate over-the-counter solutions to longer-term lifestyle changes and even surgery in some cases.


What Causes Dry Eyes?

Many causes contribute to dry eyes: some are environmental, while others happen within the body.


Disruptions in an otherwise healthy tear film can lead to the symptoms above. Your tear film has three layers: fatty oils, aqueous fluid, and mucus. Together, they keep the surface of your eyes lubricated, smooth, and clear. When problems arise with any of these layers, dry eyes can result.


Illustration of layers of eye

Tear film dysfunction may result from the following:

  • hormone changes

  • autoimmune disease

  • inflamed eyelid glands

  • allergic eye disease


There are two main subtypes of dry eye – aqueous deficiency and evaporative.

In the first subtype, the eyes don't have enough tears to stay lubricated.

In the second, tears evaporate too quickly to keep the eyes moist.


Decreased Tear Production (Aqueous Deficiency)

Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Dry eyes can occur when you cannot produce enough aqueous fluid, or liquid tears as we know them. The medical term for this condition is 'keratoconjunctivitis sicca.'


Common causes of decreased tear production include:

  • Aging

  • Certain medical conditions (including Sjogren's syndrome, allergic eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, graft vs. host disease, sarcoidosis, thyroid disorders, or vitamin A deficiency)

  • Certain medicines (including antihistamines, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, antidepressants, and medication for high blood pressure, acne, birth control, and Parkinson's disease)

  • Corneal nerve desensitivity caused by contact lens use, nerve damage, or laser eye surgery (symptoms of dry eyes related to this procedure are usually temporary)


Increased Tear Evaporation (Evaporative)

The oil film produced by small glands on the edge of your eyelids (meibomian glands) might become clogged. This is more common in people with rosacea or other skin disorders.


LipiFlow® is a Thermal Pulsation treatment used to treat Evaporative Dry Eye. It is available at Rivertown Eye Care.


The winter can also bring on or amplify dry eye symptoms caused by tear evaporation. Winds, low humidity, cold temperatures, and indoor heating systems can dry the eyes. Fortunately, you can resolve most issues with at-home treatments to restore moisture (using a humidifier, for example).

Common causes of increased tear evaporation include:

  • Posterior blepharitis (meibomian gland dysfunction)

  • Blinking less often (which tends to occur with certain conditions such as Parkinson's disease; or when you're concentrating during certain activities, such as while reading, driving, or looking at screens for an extended time)

  • Eyelid problems, such as the lids turning outward (ectropion) and the lids turning inward (entropion)

  • Eye allergies

  • Preservatives in topical eye drops

  • Wind, smoke, or dry air

  • Vitamin A deficiency

(Source: the Mayo Clinic)


How to Treat Dry Eyes

Fortunately, many treatments are available to relieve the symptoms of Dry Eye.


One of the most immediate remedies for dry eye symptoms is using eye drops or over-the-counter artificial tears. The optometrists at Rivertown Eye Care recommend brands like Systane Complete Preservative-Free eye drops. We warn our patients against using drops that relieve redness, as these can actually worsen symptoms or cause further irritation to the eyes.


Close up photo of a woman applying eye drops

We offer LipiFlow® at Rivertown Eye Care. Thisis a proven treatment performed in-office. The procedure only takes 12 minutes and can provide fast relief. LipiFlow® can help improve gland function and maintain the necessary oily layer to keep your eyes moist and healthy.


If your dry Eye is more serious, your eye doctor may prescribe medications like cyclosporine (Restasis) or lifitegrast (Xiidra). These medicines are both in the form of Eye drops that can help your eyes make more tears.

Source: nei.nih.gov


Lifestyle changes such as avoiding smoke can help reduce symptoms of dry Eye. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids can also help keep your eyes moist and comfortable. Here are a few adjustments that can make a big impact:

  • Avoiding windy environments

  • Wearing sunglasses outdoors

  • Taking breaks while looking at screens for long periods

  • Quitting smoking

  • Avoiding smoky environments

  • Using humidifiers indoors

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to one of our optometrists to explore the options the best suit your needs and lifestyle.


Call Rivertown today to schedule your appointment.


1 Comment


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