Definition

What are dry eyes?

Dry eyes occurs when your tears aren’t able to provide adequate lubrication for your eyes. Tears can be inadequate for many reasons. For example, dry eyes may occur if you don’t produce enough tears or if you produce poor-quality tears.

Dry eyes feel uncomfortable. If you have dry eyes, your eyes may sting or burn. You may experience dry eyes in certain situations, such as on an airplane, in an air-conditioned room, while riding a bike or after looking at a computer screen for a few hours.

Treatments for dry eyes may make you more comfortable. These treatments can include lifestyle changes and eyedrops. You’ll likely need to take these measures indefinitely to control the symptoms of dry eyes.

How common are dry eyes?

This condition is common. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

The common symptoms of dry eyes are:

  • A stinging, burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes
  • Stringy mucus in or around your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Eye redness
  • A sensation of having something in your eyes
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty with nighttime driving
  • Watery eyes, which is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes
  • Blurred vision or eye fatigue

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes dry eyes?

Sometimes, there’s a lack of balance in your tear-flow system. Or your air conditioner, heater, or other things around you could dry out your tear film. Other causes include:

  • The natural aging process, especially menopause
  • Side effects of certain drugs like antihistamines
  • Diseases that affect your ability to make tears, like Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, and collagen vascular diseases
  • Problems that don’t allow your eyelids to close the way they should

Risk factors

What increases my risk for dry eyes?

There are many risk factors for dry eyes, such as:

  • Being older than 50. Tear production tends to diminish as you get older. Dry eyes are common in people over 50.
  • Being a woman. A lack of tears is more common in women, especially if they experience hormonal changes due to pregnancy, using birth control pills or menopause.
  • Eating a diet that is low in vitamin A, which is found in liver, carrots and broccoli, or low in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, walnuts and vegetable oils
  • Wearing contact lenses

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are dry eyes diagnosed?

Tests and procedures that may be used to determine the cause of your dry eyes include:

 

  • A comprehensive eye exam. An eye exam that includes a complete history of your overall health and your eye health can help your doctor diagnose the cause of your dry eyes.
  • 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.

How are dry eyes treated?

There are a number of options. Ask your eye doctor what to do. Treatments include:

  • Artificial tear drops and ointments. This is the most common treatment. Many types of drops are available over the counter. No one product works for everyone, so you might have to try a few to figure out the one that’s right for you. If you have chronic dry eye, you need to use the drops even when your eyes feel fine, or they won’t stay wet enough. If your eyes dry out while you sleep, you can use a thick product, like an ointment, at night. You might think about sleeping with airtight goggles on. They’ll create a mini “moisture chamber” for your eyes.
  • Temporary punctal occlusion. Your doctor might opt to close the punctum, or duct that drains tears from your eye. He might start with a temporary plug designed to dissolve over time. Based on how it works, he’ll know whether permanent plugs will help.
  • Nondissolving punctal plugs and punctal occlusion by cautery (application of heat to tear exit duct). If temporary plugs work well, your doctor may move to longer-lasting ones. Or he could choose a procedure called cautery. He’ll give you a drug that relaxes you, then use a special tool to burn the opening shut. The scar that forms makes a permanent plug. These measures increase your tear level by blocking the “drainpipe” through which tears usually go from your eye to your nose. Tear plugs are easy to remove, but sometimes they come out on their own or fall down the tear drain. They can make your eyes feel better and lower your need for artificial tears.
  • This medical device uses heat and pressure to unclog blocked glands on your eyelids. These glands produce the oil in your tears. It keeps your eye moist and prevents your tears from evaporating.
  • Testosterone cream. It doesn’t happen often, but dry eye can be related to a lack of testosterone in the oil glands on your eyelids. The doctor might give you a testosterone cream that you apply to your eyelids. It can help your oil glands work better.
  • Cyclosporine ( Restasis). This prescription eye drop helps your eyes boost tear production.
  • Lifitegrast (Xiidra). These drops are taken twice daily to kick-start tear production.
  • Other medications andnutrition: You can use steroid eye drops, for short periods, along with long-term measures. Adding fish oil or omega-3 to your diet or can also help.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage dry eyes?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with dry eyes:

  • Use artificial tears.
  • Avoid too much air movement.
  • Use a humidifier in the winter.
  • Give your eyes a rest.
  • Avoid cigarette smoke.
  • Warm compresses and eyelid washing.
  • Consider an omega-3 fatty acid supplement.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 21, 2017 | Last Modified: August 21, 2017

Want to live your best life?
Get the Hello Doktor Daily newsletter for health tips, wellness updates and more.