Have you been experiencing a constant itching and burning sensation in your eyes, especially while watching television or working on the computer? If yes, chances are that you have dry eye syndrome. To know more about the causes and symptoms of this ailment, read on…
We all shed tears when experiencing some deep emotion. Other than this, there is another function of tears, which is to help in keeping the eye moist and lubricated. Tears are made of three essential things, including oils that are needed for lubrication, water which is necessary for moisture, and mucus which sees to it that the tears spread evenly in the eye. It also consists of proteins and antibodies that protect the eye from any kind of infection. These tears are constantly produced by the tear glands, due to which the eye remains wet and smooth, and enables us to see clearly. But sometimes the tear glands stop producing tears, or do not produce enough of them. This causes a condition known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, commonly known as ‘dry eye’.
Dry eye can be caused due to a variety of reasons. Here are some of them:
- The condition is most commonly seen in older people. As a person ages, the secretion of tears by the tear glands starts decreasing naturally, causing dry eyes.
- Hormonal changes also trigger dry eyes. Women are more at risk of having dry eyes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.
- Studies have found that less blinking can give rise to dry eyes. People who watch television or work on the computer constantly, do not blink their eyes as frequently as required. As tears are spread over the eye when a person blinks, not blinking frequently can decrease the application of tears, thus leading to the condition.
- It is also caused due to certain environmental factors. Prolonged exposure to dry climate, wind, and heat is said to be one of the reasons for developing dry eyes. People who sit for hours in an air-conditioned room or are addicted to smoking can have this problem.
- Some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, thyroid diseases, eyelid inflammation, etc., also trigger this condition.
- It can occur as a side effect to certain medications, too. It is very likely to occur in people who consume antidepressants, acne drugs, antihistamines, birth control pills, etc. It can be caused due to some physical injury or problem in the area surrounding the eyes.
- Regular use of contact lenses may give rise to dry eyes, because they may hinder the spread of tears over the eyes. Laser surgery on the eye is another reason leading to this syndrome.
As the name makes clear, people suffering from this condition are likely to experience dryness and irritation in and around the eyes. Other symptoms that come along with dry eye include:
- Burning sensation
- Increased sensitivity to light
- Thready discharge from eyes
- Eyes turning red in color
- Pain in the eyes
- Blurred vision
Other than these symptoms, sometimes people also experience tears flowing from the eyes incessantly. This may sound totally contrary to the condition, but this happens as a reaction of the tear glands to itching and irritation, and is called reflex tears.
Mild or moderate dry eyes can be treated by applying eye drops to the eyes. These over-the-counter drops help in substituting natural tears in the eyes, thus bringing back the moisture of the eyes. If the condition is severe, it would be beneficial to consult an eye specialist. Some ways of treating dry eyes are by applying ointments, permanent or temporary punctual occlusion, surgery, etc. One can avoid this condition by taking certain precautions, like wearing UV-blocking sunglasses while going out and applying humidifiers to keep the eyes moistened and lubricated.