What causes Dry Eyes?
People don’t need to be crying in order to have tears in their eyes. In fact, your eyes should always be producing tears to keep your eyes hydrated and functioning properly. Tears are conducted primarily of water, but also contain some oils that help lubricate the eye and surrounding tissue, mucus that allows the tears to spread evenly across the surface of the eye, and antibodies that help to fight off infections or bacteria that is on the surface of the eye.
While we typically don’t worry about our tear production, when it stops functioning properly, it can become a real source of irritation and discomfort. Patients who have dry eyes will stop at nothing until they can relieve the irritation.
Signs of Dry Eyes
When you don’t have enough moisture in your eyes, there are a few simple signs that you might notice.
A gritty feeling
The sense that there is something lodged in your eye
Sensitivities to bright lights
Interestingly, some patients who suffer from dry eye can produce too many tears. This is a condition called reflex tearing. The body is triggered into producing tears because the eyes are dry, but these tears aren’t like the normal production. This reaction is like when you have an eyelash or a piece of dirt in your eye and your body tries to flush it away. These tears are primarily composed of water. This means that they don’t have the same lubricating properties as your standard tear production.
The Causes of Dry Eyes
Dry eyes are typically caused either by your environment or by an issue with your tear system. Some of the environmental factors include:
Lack of humidity
Some of the issues that may be caused by your own tear system include:
Some medications; like antihistamines
Some disease; rheumatoid arthritis or collagen vascular disease
Issues completely closing your eyelid
Treating Dry Eyes
Sometimes the causes of dry eyes don’t matter to you in the moment. If you are just looking for immediate relief, many patients find that using eye drops like artificial tears can help to alleviate their problem. In fact, these types of products are the most common form of treatment for dry eyes. If you have tried a specific product, and it just didn’t seem to work for you, it’s okay to just try a different form of artificial tears. Sometimes certain brands or products wont work for somebody, so it is just a matter of finding what is best for you.
In patients who have chronic dry eye, they may need to use artificial tears regularly, even when they aren’t showing any signs of the condition. This helps them to stay wet enough and won’t allow them to become dry in the first place.
Some patients experience dry eyes while they sleep. If this is the case for you, you should consider a thicker product, like an ointment. This condition can also be improved by combining the ointment with eye goggles. These goggles create a mini moist environment for your eyes that helps keep them moist and happy.
If these solutions don’t work, your doctor may install a temporary punctal occlusion. This is a short-term plug that blocks the area where your tears normally drain. This plug is designed to dissolve over time, but can help your doctor identify if that is part of your problem. If this plug doesn’t resolve your dry eyes, then your doctor is likely to try something else, but if it works, you can expect that you will be a good candidate for a non-dissolving punctal occlusion. This is similar to the temporary occlusion, but is designed to be permanent and will not dissolve.
If you have issues with dry eyes, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor today. Sometimes these issues can be temporary, but with the help of a professional, you can ensure that your eyes will be healthy for years to come.