What is Dry Eye and Do I Have It?

Dry eye is a condition that primarily affects millions of adults 50 and older. Women are about twice as likely to develop this condition as men. Tears play a vital role in keeping your eyes comfortable and healthy. Dry eyes happen when your eyes don’t make enough tears, or the tears don’t stay on the surface of the eyes long enough to keep them moist. Here is a closer look at eye health and chronic dry eyes.

Tears and Eye Health

Tears help preserve good vision and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. A tear film forms on the surface of your eyes every time you blink. This tear film has three layers:

  • Oily – This is the top layer of the tear film and helps prevent your eyes from drying up too quickly.
  • Watery – This is the middle layer of the tear film. The watery layer helps keep your eyes clean by washing away particles.
  • Mucus – This inner layer of the tear film keeps the eyes moist and spreads the watery layer around the eyes.

Causes of Dry Eyes

Age is one of the main causes of dry eyes because the hormonal changes that occur as we get older impact the oil glands, tear ducts, and corneas. Medications to treat health conditions like diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and thyroid problems can also cause dry eyes. Some of the other causes of dry eyes include:

  • Activities that reduce blinking like looking at a computer screen or reading for a long time
  • Living in a dry, windy, or smoky environment
  • Having laser vision correction surgery
  • Wearing contact lenses for a long time
  • Allergy, cold, antidepressant, high blood pressure, and heartburn medications

Symptoms of Dry Eyes

Chronic dry eyes leave your eyes feeling heavy, dry, and irritated. The symptoms of dry eyes include:

  • Light sensitivity
  • Burning and stinging sensations
  • Red irritated eyes
  • A gritty, scratchy feeling like something is in your eyes
  • Vision problems at night
  • Excessive tears

Diagnosing Dry Eyes

An ophthalmologist can perform an eye exam if they suspect you have dry eyes. They will ask you about your medical history, then inspect the exterior of your eyes, such as your eyelids, tear ducts, and the quality of your tear film. They will also examine the interior of your eyes. Your ophthalmologist can recommend a course of treatment once they have this information.

Treating Dry Eyes

Your ophthalmologist may recommend treating your dry eyes by increasing your tears, maintaining your tears, triggering tear production, or healing inflammation. Using over-the-counter artificial tears is a common method for treating mild cases of dry eyes. Other methods of treating dry eyes include:

  • Blocking the tear ducts to keep the tears on your eyes longer
  • Prescribing eye drops to stimulate tear production
  • Taking anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation of the eyelids and glands

Schedule An Appointment

You can set up a consultation with Boston Vision if you suspect you have dry eyes. Our team can discuss your options and help you find relief with the right treatment options. To get started, contact our many Boston-area locations to set up an appointment.

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