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The Most Common Causes of Dry Eye

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The Most Common Causes of Dry Eye

An optometrist holding up a mini chalkboard with the words "Dry Eyes" written on it.

Everyone has tears in their eyes regardless of which emotions they may be feeling. They assist in maintaining lubrication, keeping our eyes comfortable, and preventing infection. But if you’re noticing a gritty feeling, like something is stuck in your eye, itchiness or seeing redness, you may have dry eyes

We’ll go through some of the most common causes, and what you can do to help your eyes feel better and less strained.

Common Causes

Age

As we age, tear production tends to decrease causing dry eyes more often. Although there isn’t much that can be done to prevent this, incorporating the regular use of lubricating eye drops as part of your daily routine, can help relieve dryness.

Certain Medications

Being that tears are a composition of oil, water, and mucus, certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, and beta blockers (used to treat hypertension) may reduce mucus production, contributing to dry eyes. Talking to your doctor about potential alternative options may help, along with using artificial tears.

Computer and Technology Use

When we are constantly looking at screens, such as people that work on computers daily, we tend to blink less. This contributes to lack of lubrication as well as our tears evaporating more quickly. It’s best to try to blink more often during screen time, as well as using lubricating eye drops to help prevent dryness.

Laser Eye Surgery

Following laser vision correction surgery, some patients tend to experience dry eye. This is because the procedure may cut some of the nerves in the cornea, causing slowed tear production. This side effect is usually temporary and will go away after a few days or weeks, but during the healing process it’s best to use lubricating eye drops to help keep your eyes moist.

Hormones

Our hormones stimulate tear production, so whenever there is an imbalance, their production may be reduced. This is common in women during pregnancy, menopause or while using birth control pills. Talk to your doctor about any options that may be available to you.

Vitamin Deficiency

More specifically, vitamin A promotes healthy eyes, a number of foods are rich in vitamin A including carrots, spinach. broccoli and peppers. A diet that maybe isn’t providing enough of this essential vitamin may contribute to dry eyes as well as other vision impairments.

Wind Exposure

Just as a hair dryer will dry your hair, the wind may cause your tears to evaporate quickly. Depending on your climate, consistent exposure to high winds and cold can potentially contribute to chronic dryness. It’s best to use eye drops whenever possible.

Sjögren’s syndrome

Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes salivary and tear glands to be attacked by white blood cells, reducing tear production. With numerous options available, including surgery to aid in the preservation of tears, it’s best to talk to your doctor about OTC and prescription eye drop options to help with the dryness that may be caused.

Closeup image of an eye with an eye drop about to be applied to it.

Autoimmune Conditions

Many other autoimmune conditions can also contribute to reduced tear production. This may include conditions such as arthritis, lupus and diabetes, with diagnosis of potentially underlying conditions proving crucial in helping with your dry eye symptoms.

Blepharitis

When the tiny oil glands on your inner eyelid become clogged and inflamed, this is called blepharitis. Although there is no cure for this condition, you can alleviate some symptoms using a hot compress with your eyes closed, or wash the inflamed eyelid area with baby shampoo. Your doctor may also be able to prescribe antibiotic eye drops or other options where necessary.

Allergies

Allergies that cause your eyes to appear itchy, red, and watery may require the use of oral antihistamines to help alleviate symptoms, however, these same medications can worsen the symptoms of dry eye. If you experience eye symptoms from allergies, ask your doctor for antihistamine eye drops to help with your dry eyes instead.

Mild Dehydration

Have you had enough water today? Although this is a common question that we should be asking ourselves, sometimes we get mildly dehydrated due to lack of drinking fluids. This can contribute to dry eyes and reduced tear production along with dizziness, fatigue and dark urine. Do your best to increase your fluid intake, and in turn alleviate the symptoms associated with dry eye and mild dehydration.

Contact Lenses

Contact lenses that sit on the surface of your eye can obstruct the oxygen required by your cornea. Frequent use of contacts can also contribute to dry eye symptoms for this reason. Give your eyes a break whenever possible by applying lubricating eye drops and wearing your prescription eyeglasses whenever possible. There are also contact lenses that are specifically designed for dry eyes and allow for higher moisture retention. If you feel the need, don’t hesitate to ask your eye doctor for more information.

There are many causes of dry eye, however there are also many treatments available to help with symptoms. Don’t hesitate to speak with your eye doctor about which options may be right for you and your lifestyle, your eyes will thank you for it.

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