What causes dry eyes?
Dry eyes can be caused by several factors:
- Reduced blink rates associated with visual tasks, e.g. computer use
- Side effects from taking certain medication, such as antihistamines or beta blockers
- Pre-existing medical conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis or Sjögren’s 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 several non-medical and lifestyle conditions that may cause dry eyes such as:
- Hot or windy climates
- Contact lens wear
- Air-conditioning units
- Inadequate production of tears
Tears are generated by glands around the eye and eyelids. With age, the tear production decreases. Dry eyes can also be a side effect of steroids and other medication you take to treat medical conditions. Symptoms of dry eyes develop when the tear amount levels decrease or the tears evaporate quickly. Environmental changes such as windy or dry climates may lead to dry eye conditions if the eye is not nourished appropriately.
Any activity which requires a lot of concentration, such as driving long distances or continuous exposure to screens, may cause dry sore eyes.
Quality of tears
Oil, water, and mucus are all ingredients of a tear. Each of these ingredients plays a significant role in nourishing the eye surface. The water layer is protected from evaporation with the help of the oil layer and the mucus layer disburses the flow of the tears throughout the eye surface evenly.
How are dry eyes diagnosed?
Optometrists have tests to detect and monitor dry eyes. If necessary, an ophthalmologist is recommended. We recommend an eye examination at least every two years, regardless of whether you have symptoms or established eye problems. Extreme cases may be referred to an ophthalmologist for further testing.
What you may expect during an examination:
- Typically Fluorescein and Lissamine green staining drops are used for diagnosis.
- A thorough history and symptoms analysis about what may be causing any dry eye problems, both systemic and environmental.
- Thorough examination of the external eye and adnexa (eyelids, conjunctiva) with slit lamp biomicroscopy using various magnifications, illuminations and slit lamp techniques.
What types of dry eyes exist?
Dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a result of not having blinked or teared properly for longer than usual. Whatever the reason may be, tears are produced by your lacrimal gland and this should function properly to avoid dry eyes.
These are some of the medical conditions that can cause dry eyes:
- Vitamin A deficiency
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thyroid disorder
If you have chronic dry eyes, it may be because of one of these medical conditions.