The Main Causes of Dry Eyes

A common condition, dry eye occurs when the tear ducts are unable to produce a sufficient quantity of tears to keep the eyes lubricated. Approximately 4.8 million people in the country suffer from this condition. Interestingly, it is more likely to affect women than men. Dry eyes are characterized by signs and symptoms such as a burning or stinging sensation in the eyes, itchiness, stringy mucus around the eyes, sensitivity to light, watery eyes, blurred vision, and red eyes. If left untreated, this condition can further lead to complications such as frequent eye infections and damage to the eye’s surface.

Tears are made up of a complex mix of fatty oils, mucus, and water, which work to help keep the surface of the eyes clear and smooth, and protect the eyes from infections. The most prevalent causes of dry eyes include:

1. Decreased tear production
Decreased tear production primarily occurs as a result of aging. However, the following mentioned factors can also trigger this condition.
2. Medications
Certain types of medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, birth control pills, decongestants, hormone replacement therapy, and medicines used for treating acne, high blood pressure, and Parkinson’s disease.
3. Underlying health issues
Health disorders including diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid diseases, and vitamin A deficiency are often a trigger for dry eyes.
Laser eye surgery, although, the associated symptoms of dry eyes only last for a temporary period.
5. Eye Damage
This may include damage to the tear glands due to inflammation or exposure to radiation.
Increased tear evaporation. Problem with the eyelids may also be the cause, such as ectropion (lower eyelid turning outwards) or entropion (eyelid turning inwards).
6. Tear evaporation
Tear evaporation can occur due to not blinking enough, especially during concentrating, for instance, while reading, using a computer, or driving.
7. Environmental factors
Such as consistent exposure to dry air, smoke, or wind.
8. Imbalance in tear composition
As mentioned earlier, the tear film is composed of fatty oils, mucus, and water. If there is an issue with the composition of any of these elements, then it can trigger the condition of dry eyes. For instance, the tiny glands (meibomian glands) situated in the corner of the eyelids that produce fatty oils might be clogged, resulting in dry eyes. Blocked glands are commonly observed in individuals suffering from inflammation affecting blepharitis (edge of the eyelids), rosacea or other forms of skin diseases.

If one is experiencing any of the above stated symptoms of dry eyes, then they should immediately seek the counsel of their general practitioner or ophthalmologist. It is crucial to figure out the root cause of this condition so that the right course of treatment can be determined. Typically, a doctor will prescribe over the counter eye drops, medications to lower inflammation, or tear-stimulating medicines to maintain lubrication in the eyes. If the following treatments fail to restore the volume of natural tears, then solutions such as light therapy, closing tear ducts to prevent the loss of tears, special contact lenses, or unblocking tear glands might be recommended to correct the condition.