Dry eye is a condition in which a person doesn't have enough quality tears to lubricate and nourish the eye. Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision. Up to 29% of Canadians suffer from Dry Eye Disease which can cause red eyes, affect vision, comfort and overall ocular health. And with the increase in digital technology usage like smartphones, there’s a greater number of younger people dealing with these issues.
Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. With each blink of the eyelids, tears spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain into the back of the nose. Dry eyes can occur when tear production and drainage is not in balance.
Causes & risk factors
Dry eyes can develop for many reasons, including:
- Dry eyes are a part of the natural aging process with a large number of people over 65 experiencing symptoms
- Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes caused by pregnancy, the use of oral contraceptives and menopause.
- Certain medicines, including antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants
- Medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, and thyroid problems
- Problems with inflammation of the eyelids called blepharitis which is an inflammation of the surfaces of the eye
- Environmental conditions such as 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
- Long-term use of contact lenses
- Refractive eye surgeries
- Stinging, scratching, or burning sensations
- Light Sensitivity
- Watery eyes
- Stringy mucus near the eye
- Blurry Vision
Treatments for dry eyes primarily aim to restore the normal amount of tears in the eye to reduce dryness to maintain eye health.
- Mild cases of dry eyes can often be managed using over-the-counter artificial tear solutions.
- Keeping natural tears in the eyes longer can reduce the symptoms by blocking the tear ducts through which the tears normally drain.
- A doctor of optometry can prescribe eye drops that increase tear production.
- Taking an omega-3 fatty acid nutritional supplement may also help.
- Treating the contributing eyelid or ocular surface inflammation with prescription eye drops or ointments.