Find Out What Causes Them and How We Treat Chronic Cases
Having dry eyes is a common condition that everyone’s experienced at least once in their lifetime. However, some individuals experience this more frequently than others. While it might not be as common or discussed as other medical eye conditions, Dry Eye Syndrome (DES) can cause many complications beyond dry and itchy eyes.
Why Do Eyes Dry Out?
When we think about tears, we often think about tears of sadness or tears of joy. But what about tears of health? Of course, tears are one of the body’s natural responses to pain. But this clear liquid from the lacrimal glands, commonly referred to as tear glands, also performs the essential functions of moisturizing the eyes, removing dirt and debris, and helping the immune system. When the glands don’t produce enough tears or the tears are low-quality, your eyes will start to feel the effects of not enough lubrication and an increase in dryness.
Symptoms of Dry Eyes
The simple act of blinking your eyes would usually be enough to wipe tear fluid across the surface to keep them sufficiently lubricated throughout the day. But problems with the tear glands or tear quality will create issues that lead to dry eyes. Symptoms usually affect both eyes and can include:
- Stinging and burning in the eyes
- Eyes that feel scratchy
- Excess mucus buildup around the eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- The constant feeling that something is stuck in the eye
- Watery eyes
- Blurred vision
- Tired eyes
Causes of Dry Eyes
As mentioned previously, eyes dry out because of an issue with the tear glands or the quality of the tears. The tears are a combination of fatty oils, aqueous fluid (water), and mucus. If this combination is off, then you’ll feel a noticeable difference in your eyes. But what can cause something like this? There are many possibilities, including:
- A Decrease in Tear Production – It stands to reason that if you’re not producing as many tears, your eyes will begin to dry out. If your tears lack the right amount of water, it is a condition known as keratoconjunctivitis. Individuals may experience this due to:
- Other medical conditions, such as vitamin A deficiency, allergic eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, sarcoidosis, and thyroid disorders
- Medications like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants, hormone replacement therapy, and various prescriptions for high blood pressure, acne prevention, birth control, and Parkinson’s disease
- Damage to the corneal nerve from contact lenses or laser eye surgery
- An Increase in Tear Evaporation – Watery tears that dry up quickly will lead to frequent dry eyes. This can be due to blocked meibomian glands, which contribute an oily substance to the tears. Without this oil, tears are mostly water and evaporate quickly. Other common causes of increased tear evaporation are:
- Eye allergies
- Wind, smoke, or dry air
- Reduced blinking during extended periods of concentration such as driving or reading
- Eyelid dysfunction, such as lids turning inward or outward
- Eyedrop preservatives
- Vitamin A deficiency
Should I See an Eye Doctor for Dry Eyes?
Dry eyes can vary significantly in severity and irritation from person to person. A minor case, such as one caused by wind, smoke, or long periods of driving or reading, can often be treated with over-the-counter eye drops. However, a chronic case or one that seems to be worsening due to an eye issue or medical condition should be evaluated by an eye doctor. A full assessment and diagnosis of the underlying cause is the best way to approach the problem.
Complications Caused by Dry Eyes
Individuals with dry eye syndrome who try to manage the condition long term with eye drops and neglect to see a medical specialist are at risk of further complications, such as:
- Conjunctivitis – This inflammation causes redness and dried grittiness around the eyes. Individuals may also be sensitive to light.
- Corneal Ulcers – Bacteria from debris not cleared by tears in dry eyes can infect the cornea causing an ulcer. These can be treated with antibiotic drops, but if left untreated, they can spread and cause sight issues that may be permanent, including blindness.
- Keratitis – An inflamed cornea, known as keratitis, is another cause of corneal ulcers.
- Inability to wear contact lenses – Dry eyes will also cause dry contact lenses resulting in irritation, red eyes, and the possibility of the lenses sticking to the eyeball.
- Issues with keeping eyes open – If dry eye syndrome causes sensitivity to light or the constant feeling that something is stuck in the eye, it can be challenging to keep your eyes open because the body’s natural reaction is to close the eyelids.
- Trouble with driving or reading – Severe dry eyes can cause blurriness and possibly double vision, making reading difficult and driving unsafe.
Have Dry Eyes Evaluated by an Eye Doctor
At Arvada Vision & Eye Clinic in Arvada, CO, we treat various medical eye conditions, including dry eye syndrome. While everyone will experience some form of dry eyes once in a while, chronic cases should be evaluated by eye doctors to avoid further complications and discomfort. Contact our team to schedule an appointment if you suffer from dry eye syndrome.