Don’t put up with sore and scratchy eyes, take a closer look at our useful tips to ward off your dry eye complications.
Dry eyes occur when the quantity or quality of one’s tears fail to keep the eye adequately lubricated. It can also be triggered if one’s tears evaporate too quickly. Tears are made up of water, fatty oils, mucus and over 1500 types of protein that smooth the eye’s surface. With each blink, basal tears bathe the cornea—the outer surface of the eye—acting as liquid protection against infection. Dry eyes are often accompanied by an itchy or gritty feeling, sensitivity to light, blurred vision, fatigue, poor night vision and redness. If the condition is recurring or prolonged, it can be extremely frustrating for the sufferer.
Known causes and triggers
There are a number of known triggers for dry eyes; the most common ones being air conditioning or heating, prolonged exposure to computer screens, seasonal allergies, extreme weather and certain medications like antihistamines. Dry eyes can also be a symptom of a wider problem such as diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, the problem may be physical; for example, an inability to blink or a restriction of the tear ducts. The risk of developing dry eyes significantly increases with age—it is especially common during the female menopause.
Treating the problem
People experiencing persistent dry eyes should consult an eye care professional to determine the cause, which will guide the treatment strategy. If medication is the cause for discomfort, your physician may suggest an alternative that is not associated with dry eyes. Some individuals may choose to amend their lifestyle in order to resolve the problem; this may involve less screen time and more periodic breaks from the computer during working hours. Wrap around sunglasses should be worn to shield you during hazardous weather conditions. Cutting down on smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke is also recommended for reducing dry eye symptoms. Over-the-counter drops and ocular lubricants are effective for less severe cases. Extreme instances of dry eye may require surgery in order to prevent tears from draining away easily—your optometrist should be able to advise the best course of action for your circumstance.
While dry eye may be uncomfortable, it doesn’t usually lead to any serious problems. The two main complications of dry eyes are conjunctivitis and inflammation of the cornea.
Conjunctivitis—when the transparent layer of cells that cover the white part of the eyeball and the inner surfaces of the eyelid
—known as the conjunctiva —becomes inflamed or swollen. This can lead to excessive itching, pink discolouration and a white discharge around the eye.
Inflammation of the cornea—known as keratitis, this is the irritation of the cornea
— the convex outer layer of the eyeball that shields the eye from the outside environment. The cornea is made up of several layers and is lubricated by the tear film. Inflammation of the cornea can be extremely painful, especially when blinking.
Performing regular eye baths and warm lid compressions can be very beneficial—try to weave these into your weekly routine. Taking omega 3
fatty acid supplements may also help reduce dryness in the eye area. Get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated with water throughout the day. Finally, be sure to remove contact lenses and excess makeup at the end of each day for optimum eye health
The number of prescription items in England in 2014 for artificial tears, ocular lubricants and astringents. These were dispensed in the community at a cost to the NHS of over £27m.
Source: The Management of Dry Eye, Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, 2016
Wherever there’s smoke…
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, cigarette smoking has an adverse effect on the lipid layer of the precorneal tear film and tear proteins.