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What Causes Dry Eyes?

dry eyes

Dry eyes are a common problem most often seen in adults. This condition causes several uncomfortable symptoms, often as part of a disease called dry eye syndrome. If you suffer symptoms of dry eyes, it is important that you visit your ophthalmologist for relief. There are multiple dry eye treatments available to you, depending upon your condition's precise causes and your diagnosis.

What is dry eye syndrome?

Natural lubrication is important for proper functioning of your eyes. Anyone can experience eye dryness in arid environments or because of temporary conditions like allergies. But frequent dryness not from such conditions can mean you have dry eye syndrome or dry eye disease. Chronic dryness when your eyes do not produce enough natural lubrication interferes with your quality of life. Left untreated, your condition can also contribute to serious eye diseases.

Symptoms of Dry Eyes

Dry eye syndrome leads to a range of symptoms, such as:

  • Redness
  • Itching
  • Feeling that something is in your eye
  • Irritation
  • Burning and stinging
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye watering, overproduction of tears in response to the dryness
  • Mucus or discharge

If you have any of these symptoms or other eye irritation, it is important to visit a dry eye doctor. There are multiple treatments available for this condition, according to your diagnosis.

What causes dry eyes?

Dry eyes can occur at any age. But it is more common in adults. The condition can develop from one or multiple contributing factors. These factors include:

  • Ageing
  • Windy or dusty environment
  • Smoke and other pollutants
  • Overwear of contact lenses
  • Arthritis
  • Certain medications
  • Sjogren's syndrome
  • Meibomian gland dysfunction

Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD)

Meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) is commonly the cause of dry eye disease. Your Meibomian glands produce the outer layer of oil on your tear film. These lipids keep your tears from quickly evaporating. When the glands are not properly functioning, bacteria infiltrates them and cause inflammation. As a result, your eyes become red and painful. With MGD, you can also experience vision blurriness and swollen eyelids.

dry eyes

Dry Eye Treatments

There are multiple treatments available for dry eyes. These include over-the-counter options like eye lubricating drops, as well as advanced treatments available only through your eye doctor.

Prescription medications designed to treat dry eyes include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Antibiotics
  • Prescription eyedrops like Restasis or corticosteroids
  • Eye inserts for artificial lubrication
  • Tear-stimulating medications called cholinergics
  • Autologous blood serum drops

Other procedures for dry eye treatment include:

  • Tear duct closure to reduce tear loss
  • Tear duct plugging with silicone punctal plugs
  • Thermal cautery of the tear ducts, plugging them using heat
  • Scleral lenses or bandage lenses, specialized contact lenses that trap moisture and protect the eyes
  • Unblocking your oil glands through thermal pulsation
  • Daily warm compresses or eye masks to unblock oil glands
  • Intense-pulsed light therapy with eyelid massage

Proper Diagnosis Is the Key to Treatment

To receive the right dry eye treatment and relief from your dry eye syndrome, you first need a proper diagnosis. Schedule an eye exam with your optometrist or ophthalmologist to discuss your dry eye problem. Your eye doctor can help you enjoy some immediate relief through recommendation of over-the-counter eye drops or prescription medication. They can also start you on the path to permanent relief through one of the dry eye treatments listed above, as appropriate.

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