What is dry eye, and how do you know if you have it?
Have you ever experienced blurry, itchy eyes? A feeling of grittiness when nothing is actually in your eyes? Red, aching eyes? You may have dry eye syndrome.
When your tears are not lubricating your eyes properly, you may experience:
- Light sensitivity
- A gritty sensation
- A feeling of a foreign body or sand in the eye
- Blurring of vision
These symptoms may indicate that you are suffering from dry eye syndrome, and you should see your eye doctor for a complete eye exam.
What causes dry eyes?
Dry eye can be a temporary or chronic condition. The majority of people over the age of 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
The development of dry eyes can have many causes. They include:
- Age – dry eye is a part of the natural aging process. The majority of people over age 65 experience some symptoms of dry eyes.
- Gender – women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives, and menopause.
- Medications – certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications and antidepressants, can reduce the amount of tears produced in the eyes.
- Medical conditions – persons with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes and thyroid problems are more likely to have symptoms of dry eyes. Also, problems with inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis), inflammation of the surfaces of the eye, or the inward or outward turning of eyelids can cause dry eyes to develop.
- Environmental conditions – exposure to smoke, wind and dry climates can increase tear evaporation resulting in dry eye symptoms. Failure to blink regularly, such as when staring at a computer screen for long periods of time, can also contribute to drying of the eyes.
- Other factors – long term use of contact lenses can be a factor in the development of dry eyes. Refractive eye surgeries, such as LASIK, can cause decreased tear production and dry eyes.
Who is likely to develop dry eye?
Elderly people frequently experience dryness of the eyes, but dry eye can occur at any age. Nearly five million Americans 50 years of age and older are estimated to have dry eye. Of these, more than three million are women and more than one and a half million are men. Tens of millions more have less severe symptoms. Dry eye is more common after menopause. Women who experience menopause prematurely are more likely to have eye surface damage from dry eye.
If you suspect that you may have dry eye syndrome, make an appointment today with Dr. Min or Dr. Sims at Northwest Vision Center.