Your Guide to Dry Eye Syndrome
Do you find yourself blinking often because of burning, scratchy, or “end of the day” eyes? You are not alone. While certainly not life threatening, dry eyes can be bothersome and affect your quality of life.
Innumerable causes might lead to dry eyes. One reason is simply aging; as the body ages, it produces fewer tears and/or the tears may be of poorer quality. A second cause is lid gland dysfunction, perhaps a result of blepharitis. When this happens, the oil producing glands along the lid margins reduce their production and secretion of oils. Since oils mix with tears to form a mixture that evaporates slower, less oil production produces a dryer eye since the watery layer evaporates too quickly. A third reason is decreased hormone levels; women (age forty and over) tend to experience dry eyes more than men because of their decreasing levels of certain hormones. A fourth cause is drug-induced; medications like high blood pressure meds, decongestants, antihistamines, sleeping pills, some antidepressants, and birth control pills may also cause dry eyes. (Since discontinuing these meds may not be an option, replacement tears are recommended to relieve eye dryness.) A fifth reason may be environmental factors; dry or poor quality air might cause dryness of the eyes. A sixth cause might be disease, which may reduce tear production leading to dry eyes. These medical conditions include rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, leukemia, and Stevens-Johnson syndrome. A seventh reason might be the result of working at a computer, driving, or reading; if you are performing a task that requires intense visual concentration, this may decrease your blink rate. (Normally, you blink at a rate of once every 12 seconds – which allows your eyelids to spread a continuous tear film across the surface of the eye.) Lastly, dry eyes may occur for no obvious reason.
The good news – dry eyes can be treated effectively with replacement tears or a minor surgical procedure. Choosing the appropriate artificial tears is imperative since some drops have preservatives that may irritate a dry eye. There are prescription and nonprescription artificial tears as well as drops with preservatives or without preservatives. Furthermore, a combination of prescription drops with artificial tears may solve the dry eye dilemma. If replacement tears are not effective, then blocking the tear drain with a plug will increase tear volume and decrease dry eye symptoms. There is no cure for dry eyes, but your comfort level can be dramatically improved by seeking the appropriate medical care. Without tears, good vision is impossible.
– Beach Eye Care Doctors 2009