Tears within the “tear film” are a complex combination of varying layers of water, oils and lipids, helping to lubricate the eye, wash away debris, stabilise vision and protect against infection.
When the volume of tears on the surface of the eye and beneath the lids is not enough, the eye can feel dry, irritated and inflamed.
There are a number of symptoms which can include:
- The feeling of burning, grittiness, sore or itching eyes.
- Brief or intermittent blurring of vision.
- Discomfort in bright light.
- Red eyes.
- Watering eyes - excessive watery tears lacking crucial lubricant properties.
Contact lens wearers may find that their lenses become increasingly less comfortable to wear.
The causes of dry eye are varying and can be caused by several factors:
- Reduced blink rates associated with visual tasks – eg computer use.
- Side effects from taking certain medication - such as antihistamines or beta blockers.
- Pre-existing medical conditions – including rheumatoid arthritis or Sjorgen syndrome.
- Pre-existing eye conditions such as blepharitis or eyelid conditions.
- Hormonal changes - typically associated with being female, middle age or pregnancy.
- Problems with drainage via the tear ducts.
There are also a number of non-medical and lifestyle conditions that can cause dry eyes such as:
- Hot or windy climates.
- Contact lens wear.
- Air-conditioning units.
There are no real cures for dry eyes, however symptoms can be managed in the following ways:
- Increasing your blink rate.
- Modifying environmental factors, such as more frequent breaks from computers.
- Using dry eye drops, gels or ointments.
- Wearing glasses/sunglasses for protection.
- Treating any underlying cause, such as improving eyelid hygiene.
- Nutrition and hydration, including Omega-3 supplements.
Optometrists have a number of tests available to detect and monitor dry eyes and will offer a personalised management plan. Extreme cases may be referred to a hospital ophthalmologist for further testing.
We recommend you have an eye test at least every two years regardless of symptoms and/or conditions.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned, please make an appointment with the optical expert at your nearest Vision Express store.