Dry eye is a very common eye condition that occurs when someone has problems with their tear film. The tear film is the transparent liquid that coats the surface of the eyes and enables them to move comfortably in their sockets.
The tear film is made from a combination of water, proteins, and oil, the latter which is produced by special glands called meibomian glands, which are located in the skin around the eyes. When the meibomian glands aren’t working properly, not enough oil gets into the tear film, and this reduces its natural lubricating qualities and can lead to the symptoms of dry eyes. Similarly, dry eye can occur when the tear film drains from the surface of the eyes too quickly.
It’s not known exactly why some people develop dry eye and others don’t. Most people will experience at least one short episode during their lifetime, but some people will develop chronic dry eye. However, you are more likely to suffer from dry eyes if you:
Are over the age of 50
Wear contact lenses
Spend a lot of time using digital devices without regular breaks
Spend a lot of time in dusty, dry, or windy environments
Drink alcohol regularly or to excess
Suffer from conditions such as blepharitis, lupus, or Sjögren’s syndrome
Take certain medications, such as some types of antidepressants and blood pressure medications
You could have dry eye if your eyes are:
Itchy and irritated
Watering excessively (an emergency response by your body to flood your eyes with poor quality tear film)
Sensitivity to light
Fortunately, there are plenty of things that you can do to ease the symptoms of dry eyes and stop them from affecting your quality of life. These include:
Dry eye can be made worse by a condition called blepharitis. This is characterized by inflammation of the eyelids and is caused by blockages in the tiny oil glands near the base of the eyelashes. Cleaning your eyelids regularly is a recommended treatment for blepharitis and can reduce the effects of dry eyes.
If you spend a lot of time using digital devices, we strongly recommend that you take regular breaks to improve your dry eye symptoms. Follow the 20/20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, take a break and look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This helps the focusing powers of the eye to relax and encourages more regular blinking – something which we naturally do less of when we use screens.
A humidifier adds moisture to the air, and this can help to reduce the effects of dry eyes.
Having dry eyes can make it hard to insert and remove contact lenses and make them uncomfortable when you wear them. If you can, we recommend you switch to glasses until your symptoms improve.
There are lots of different treatments that can relieve dry eyes. Firstly, you may have your current medications reviewed to see if they could be contributing – and if so, it may be that you can take an alternative instead. If not, your eye doctor will usually suggest that you try one treatment at a time to see which makes the most difference to your symptoms. Some of the options available include:
Warm compresses and massaging the eyes (which can be done at the same time as using eye drops)
Lipiflow, is a technological solution that uses thermal pulses to break down and eliminate hardened oil deposits in the meibomian glands and stimulate oil production again
If you would like more information about dry eyes or tips for managing the condition, visit Blue River Vision in Silverthorne, CO. Call (970) 451-0015 to schedule an appointment today.