Dry eye syndrome: Causes, symptoms & some effective treatments
Are you familiar with a stinging, burning, sandy sensation in your eyes? If you are then take your place in the long line of people suffering from dry eyes. Ironically, despite its name, dry eye syndrome in fact leads to more tears. Soreness, blurred vision, redness and gritty sensation in the eyes are some common symptoms experienced by people suffering from this disorder.
The condition occurs because the eyes are not producing enough tears, or they are evaporating too quickly, leading to dryness. Now, the body’s natural reaction to dry eyes is to produce more tears, but this is useless as the tears don’t contain the right lubricants. So, even though your eyes are watering, they are still dry.
There are many causes for dry eyes. Chilly winter months and excessive computer use are some of the recurring reasons for this eye problem. Dry eyes are also common in people older than 50 as tear production tends to diminish with age. In many cases, women undergoing menopause also face dry eyes because of the hormonal changes in their body.
Refractive eye surgeries such as laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis (LASIK) may cause decreased tear production and trigger the problem. Symptoms of dry eyes related to these procedures are usually temporary. However, severe cases of dry eye syndrome can be due to damage to the tear glands from inflammation or radiation. If this syndrome is not treated, it can lead to corneal ulcers and scarring.
There are several ways to treat dry eye syndrome. Mild to moderate cases of the eye condition can usually be treated using lubricant eye treatments that consist of a range of gels, drops and ointments. The aim of these lubricants is to replace the missing water in the tear film and provide long lasting relief from dry eyes. It must be noted that these lubricants do not contain the antibodies, vitamins and nutrients essential for eye health. They are also quite thick and can cloud your vision, therefore its best to use them before bedtime.
Alternative medications that can be considered include Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. They are usually found in fish and vegetable oils and are thought to reduce inflammation in the body.
Recent studies have also established that caffeine increases tear volume within hours of consumption.
Since prevention is better than cure, there are several measures that people can take to prevent their dry eyes from getting aggravated.
Taking eye breaks while working on the computer is a must. Also, position your computer screen below eye level so that you won’t open your eyes as wide. This may slow down evaporation of your tears between eye blinks.
Another remedy is to keep blinking as this helps eyes to stay lubricated. If you are in a dry area, shut your eyes for a few minutes at a stretch to prevent evaporation of the tears.
A warm compress placed over your eyelids for up to 10 minutes once a day is an effective dry eye treatment.
You can also look at adding safety shields to the tops and sides of eyeglasses to block wind and dry air from getting to your eyes. Swim goggles may create the same effect. Finally, if you smoke, quit immediately because smoking can worsen the dry eyes symptoms.