Tears are essential to keep moisture and flush out dirt and bacteria out of the eyes. Tear films are consisted of three layers containing mucus (first layer), saltwater solution (second layer), and thin layer of fats (superficial layer). When a disorder in the tear film occur, it usually results to dry eye syndrome.
What is Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome happens when the eyes are unable to maintain a healthy of coating of tears. It is usually signaled by burning, pain, redness in the eye, stingy mucus, and blurry vision. You may also be experiencing this condition when you’re having difficulty in reading or working on the computer for a long time.
Dry eye syndrome doesn’t typically result to vision loss, but it can disrupt your daily routine and lead to cornea infection. While it’s a common condition, dry eye syndrome is not something that you can just ignore.
Let’s see what causes dry eye syndrome, its risk factors, treatments, and ways to prevent it.
What Causes Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome is caused by insufficient production of water, oil, and mucus. Tears can easily evaporate when they lack oil, which ultimately results to not enough moisture in the eyes.
Dry eye syndrome can also be caused by excessive reading, working on the computer, spending time in a dry environment, not blinking enough, wearing contact lenses, certain medication, allergies, wind or dry air, and hormone replacement therapy.
What are the Risk Factors to Dry Eye Syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome can happen to anyone, but there are certain individuals who may have higher chances of experiencing this condition. See if any of the risk factors apply to you to know how prone you are to dry eye syndrome.
- Age – Dry eye syndrome is common among older people. Five million Americans who are 50 years old and above are experiencing this condition.
- Women – Dry eye syndrome is more prevalent among women, but it can also occur in men.
- Conditions – Certain health conditions such as allergies, thyroid disease, immune system disorders, vitamin A deficiency, and exposure keratitis can increase a person’s chances of experiencing dry eye syndrome.
How to Know if you Have Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry eye syndrome is diagnosed through tests that examine your tears and the rate of how quick your eyes can produce tears.
Typically, you need to see an eye doctor when dryness in your eyes hinder you from seeing clearly as you used to. Likewise, if you experience flaking, discharge, sores, stiffness, swelling, pain, and bulging or drooping eyes, you need to seek immediate medical attention as well.
Dry eye syndrome can be treated in several ways. Depending on your case, the doctor may recommend addressing the condition through:
- Artificial tears – Using artificial tears is a common treatment for dry eyes. It can be used once or twice a day. In some cases, doctors may prescribe a preservative-free brand to avoid any adverse eye reaction to preservatives.
- Lacrimal Plugs – Lacrimal plugs are used to slow down tear loss by blocking the drainage holes in the corners of the eyes. Typically, this is a temporary treatment, but it can become a permanent treatment for severe cases.
- Medication – Doctors can also prescribe medication that help increase tears in the eyes. If a particular medicine is causing dryness in your eyes, your doctor may switch your prescription to another drug that doesn’t have that side effect. Some of the medication prescribed for dry eye syndrome are Restasis, corticosteroids, oral tetracycline, and doxycycline.
- Proper Nutrition – A diet filled with essential protein and vitamins may also be prescribed to keep your eyes healthy. If needed, your doctor may prescribe Omega-3 fatty acid supplements or advise you to get it from salmon, sardines, herring, cod, and flaxseed oil.
- Surgery – When treatments don’t work, severe dry eye syndrome can be addressed through surgery. Typically, it is done to permanently plug the inner corners of the eye to maintain sufficient amount of tears.
Essential Prevention Tips
Just like most health conditions, dry eye syndrome can be prevented, and prevention has a lot to do with lifestyle choices you make everyday. Let’s look at each of them.
- Use air humidifiers – Dry eye syndrome is caused by dry air and arid conditions. Use humidifiers in your office too keep moisture at an ideal level. Open your windows every once in a while to allow proper air circulation.
- Avoid alcohol – Alcohol can dry your eyes too, so keep your intake at a minimum if you want to avoid dry eye syndrome.
- Limit wear of contact lenses – Contact lenses, while they’re helpful at correcting vision, can cause dry eyes. It’s advisable to limit its usage and rely on eyeglasses during certain times of the day.
- Avoid smoking – Smoking can be a risk factor too many health conditions, including dry eye syndrome. If you want to maintain moisture in the eyes, it’s best to wean yourself off the habit as soon as you can. Sure, artificial tears can help, but nothing beats being smoke-free.
- Take eye breaks – If you spend extensive hours reading, working on the computer, watching TV, or doing activities that require visual concentration, you need to make a habit of taking eye breaks. Take time to close your eyes for a few minutes or blink repeatedly for a few seconds, so that your tears can spread out and moisturize your eyes.
- Be aware of your surroundings – If you’re in an area with high altitude or dry air, you can minimize tear evaporation and dry eyes by closing your eyes often.
- Position your monitors properly – Keep them at your eye level to help minimize evaporation of tears in between your blinks.
- Consider using safety shields. Safety shields can be added to the top and sides of your eye glasses and help block air and wind. Ask your doctor if it’s appropriate for you.
- Avoid getting air directly to the eyes. When using hair dryers, air conditioners, and fans, make sure that the wind direction is not directed to your eyes.
- Good hygiene – Warm compress and massages help the oil in your eyes to flow more freely and remove bacteria, dust, and crust that accumulated in your eyelids.
Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that can be easily prevented and treated. However, if it goes unnoticed and becomes severe, it may lead to further complications. We hope that this guide helped you understand about what dry eye syndrome is, how you can avoid it, and when to seek medical attention.