When tears don’t provide enough moisture, you might notice:
- A gritty feeling
- Feeling like there’s something in your eye
- Blurry vision
- Light sensitivity
Sometimes, dry eyes create too many tears. This confusing condition is called reflex tearing.Causes Dry Eyes?
Causes of Dry Eyes
Aside from allergies and other environmental issues, the natural aging process (including menopause) is a primary cause of dry eyes. Some other causes include:
- side effects from medications (such as antihistamines or blood pressure medications)
- underlying conditions (such as thyroid problems; diabetes; rheumatoid arthritis; Sjögren’s syndrome, an immune system disorder; or Parkinson’s disease)
- your environment (exposure to dust, smoke, and other pollutants)
- eye surgery
- contact lens use
- looking at electronic gadgets too long without blinking (if you go too long without blinking, you’re not giving your eyes a chance to replenish the tear film).
Tests and procedures that may be used to determine the cause of your dry eyes include:
- Measuring the volume of your tears. Your doctor may measure your tear production using the Schirmer test. In this test, blotting strips of paper are placed under your lower eyelids. After five minutes your doctor measures the amount of strip soaked by your tears.
- Determining the quality of your tears. Other tests use special dyes in eyedrops to determine the surface condition of your eyes. Your doctor looks for staining patterns on the corneas and measures how long it takes before your tears evaporate.
Taking care of dry eyes not only relieves discomfort but can help you avoid infection or even scarred corneas. Treatment is pretty simple, too.
For people who make enough tears but have dry eye symptoms, use;
- warm compresses
- Lid scrubs to clean out the crud along the lid line
- gentle eye massage to stimulate the oil glands on the lid margins.
For people who aren’t making enough tears, try;
- artificial tears (there are many types and brands)
- medicines that increase tear production, such as ophthalmic cyclosporine (Restasis)
- an in-office procedure to block tear drainage by inserting plugs into the tear drainage ducts.
A variety of nonprescription products are available for dry eyes, including over the counter eyedrops (artificial tears), gels, gel inserts and ointments. Talk with your doctor about which might be best for you.
Consider these factors when selecting an over-the-counter product:
- Preservative vs. non preservative drops. Preservatives are added to some drops to prolong shelf life. You can use eyedrops with preservatives up to four times a day. But using the preservative drops more often can cause eye irritation.Non preservative eyedrops come in packages that contain multiple single-use vials. After you use a vial, you throw it away. If you rely on eyedrops more than four times a day, non preservative drops are safe.
- Drops vs. ointments. Lubricating ointments coat your eyes, providing longer lasting relief, but these products are thicker than eyedrops and can cloud your vision. For this reason, ointments are best used just before you go to bed. Eyedrops can be used at any time and won’t interfere with your vision.
- Drops that reduce redness. It’s best to avoid any products that “Get the red out” for dry eyes, as prolonged use can cause irritation.