The surface of our eye is covered with a thin film of tears that remains invisible. The tears are essential to keep the eyes lubricated. Production of tears take place inside a gland called lacrimal gland, which is present at the top of the eyeball. The tears then get spread into tiny tear ducts at the front of the eyeball and also into the nose.
We get dry eyes when the tear producing glands dry up, and do not produce sufficient tears. It can also happen if the tears produced by the gland gets evaporated very fast, or, do not get spread properly all over the eyes. People in the age group of 40-50 are more prone to this eye problem. It does not have any damaging effect on the eyes, but the dryness causes a lot of discomfort.
What Causes Dry Eyes at Night?
Dryness in the eyes is commonly observed in people who spend long hours in front of computers. This is because, the number of blinks per minute tend to decrease while staring at the computer screen all day while working, which leads to rapid evaporation of tears. In a dry surrounding, like in the presence of a strong air conditioner, this problem becomes worse. Staying awake till late night can badly aggravate the condition.
Contact lenses can absorb the fluids from the surface of the eyes and make them dry. If there is an eye problem due to which the eyes do not blink or close properly, then the tears dry up fast. Inflammatory diseases affecting the eye or eyelid can reduce the tear production in lacrimal glands, and the eyes turn dry. Those who are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Sjogren's syndrome; can have dryness in eyes. Women going through menopause experience dry eyes at night due to some hormonal changes. It can be a side effect of certain medicines like antihistamines, antidepressants, and beta blockers.
Common Symptoms Accompanied by Dry Eyes at Night
Many of its symptoms show up particularly during nighttime; and after getting up in the morning. As the tears in the eyes decrease at the end of the day, the soreness felt in the eyes becomes more severe at night, as compared to the daytime. At this time, the upper and lower eyelids may get stuck with each other due to lack of lubrication.
For this reason, many people complain about a sensation of heaviness in the upper eyelid. In the morning, they get a sticky feeling in the eyes due to mucous discharge. Even after getting a good night sleep, the dry eyes look tired in the morning. Some patients get blurred vision just after waking up in the morning.
There are other symptoms, which are observed at any time of the day, but they worsen at night.
- Burning sensation in the eyes. It gets aggravated if your eyes are exposed to allergens, or smoke, or blowing wind.
- Eyes become tired very easily while reading or working on the computer; or watching TV.
- With aging, the tears may not get spread in the eyes properly. Due to the uneven distribution of tears, one may feel dryness in the eyes.
- Itchiness in the eyes. Sometimes, the dryness becomes so intense that one feels like scratching the eyes.
- Sometimes, it feels like a foreign body is present inside the eyes.
- Eyes get sensitive when exposed to any bright light.
- Those who wear contact lenses find it uncomfortable to wear them anymore.
Treatment for Dry Eyes at Night
The treatment involves supplying of tears to the eyes artificially, to retain the lubrication of the eyes. The most widely used medication is artificial tears, that are available in the form of eye drops. Select one such eye drop, that does not contain preservatives to avoid any irritation in the eyes. The biggest advantage of this eye drop is that it does not affect the vision, and hence, can be applied several times all through the day.
Those who have severe dryness in eyes prefer artificial tears in the form of gel, as their effect lasts for a longer duration as compared to the eye drops. Ointments of artificial tears are used before going to bed to control the symptoms of dry eyes at night. Since it is highly viscous, it can be used during the night only. If there is any swelling in the eyes or eyelids, then it should be treated under a trusted doctor.
Even though dry eyes is a minor eye problem, it should not be neglected. You should visit your ophthalmologist regularly for eye checkups. To prevent the aggravation of this condition, you should stay away from dry areas like air conditioned room, windy areas; and extreme hot and cold weather conditions.