Don't Ignore Dry Eyes
You might feel a sand-like grittiness in your eyes that can range from mild to severe.
People sometimes describe the feeling as a lack of lubrication. That’s exactly what
it is. Your body isn't making enough tears, or the chemicals in your tears are out
of balance. When this happens, you have dry eye.
Dry eye is a medical diagnosis that at times is not taken seriously, say the American
Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) and the American Optometric Association (AOA).
According to the AAO and the AOA, over 3 million women and over 1 million men suffer
from dry eye syndrome. This generally increases with age. Dry eye is not just an annoyance.
It can cause inflammation, blurred vision, and even blindness in extreme cases.
Risk rises with age
Changes in your immune response and falling hormone production as you age can lead
to dry eye. Other possible causes include:
Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjorgren syndrome, thyroid disease,
Swollen or red eyelids (blepharitis)
Eyelids that turn inward (entropion) or outward (ectropion)
Wearing contacts lenses for a number of years
Having refractive eye surgery, such as LASIK
Here are some of the medicines that can also cause or worsen dry eye:
Diuretics (water pills)
Beta-blockers, for heart problems or high blood pressure
Some antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines
Some medicines for overactive bladder
Some antinausea and motion sickness medicines
If you have dry eye symptoms and are on medicines, talk with your healthcare provider
to see if changes might help.
Some autoimmune disorders, like rheumatoid arthritis, can cause dry eye.
The first line of defense against dry eye is to limit or stay away things that cause
symptoms. That includes dry climates. Humidity levels of about 45% or more are best
for your eyes. Other factors include forced air (like from a car vent), dusty settings,
smoke, and computer screens set so high that they force your eyes to open wider.
Artificial tears that you can buy over the counter can help. Look for products that
are just like your own tears, not eye drops sold for allergies or redness. Ask your
eye care provider to advise products that will be the best for your condition. Prescription
eye drops, punctal plugs, hot compresses, and other medicines and treatments can also
help. Talk with your eye care provider about these choices.