While common, dry eyes can be extremely uncomfortable. In addition to causing irritation, dry eyes can be quite inconvenient, as they can make it difficult to perform activities like reading or browsing the Internet for long periods of time. The National Eye Institute explained that people experiencing this optical syndrome also find it hard to stay in dry environments such as airplanes. Dry eyes can come in the form of a permanent chronic disease or as the temporary result of surgery, medications, optical infections or a number of other medical issues. If your eyes feel parched, read on to find out more about dry eye and how it can be treated.
Before you can properly address the issue, you need to understand what’s happening to your body. According to the Mayo Clinic, the basic root of your dry eye is that your eyes aren’t being exposed to the proper amount of tears. Tears are formed from water, oils and mucus, and this unique mixture coats your eyes to promote good vision and protect you from infections. Dry eye can occur when your body isn’t creating enough tears, your tears are evaporating at a high rate or the tears that are being produced don’t contain the proper balance of water, oil and mucus.
Temporary dry eye may occur after laser vision correction, and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a month. Long-term cases of dry eye can appear for a variety of reasons. Aging is a central cause behind chronic dry eye, as tear production can slow down after the age of 50. Women are also more likely to develop dry eye than men, as the condition can be exacerbated by factors like pregnancy, menopause or taking a birth control prescription. The Mayo Clinic noted that people who don’t consume enough vitamin A, or who wear contact lenses, are also more likely to experience lengthy cases of dry eye.
You should speak to a doctor about diagnosing dry eye, but it’s fairly easy to identify the symptoms yourself. All About Vision explained that the signs of dry eye often include itchiness, redness and a burning feeling. You may also feel like something is floating around in your eye, a symptom referred to as “foreign body sensation.” Although it seems counterintuitive, overly watery eyes can also be a tell-tale sign of dry eye. This typically occurs in cases where the syndrome is caused by the tears’ composition.
Dryness of the eyes can also be spurred by general dehydration, as your body is attempting to conserve water. If this is the cause of your optical discomfort, you’ll likely experience traditional signs of dehydration, like headache, dry mouth, exhaustion and cramps, explained Think About Your Eyes.
How it can be treated
Because there are so many causes behind dry eye, there are also a variety of ways it can be ameliorated. If your physician determines that it’s a chronic issue, he or she will prescribe you medication that addresses the syndrome’s root cause, whether it’s tear quality, lack of tear production or immediate tear evaporation, explained the National Eye Institute. Because many people get dry eye as a result of wearing contact lenses, your doctor may suggest switching lens brands, reevaluating your contact lens habits or trying a different visual aid, like undergoing a LASIK procedure.
If you’re experiencing dryness following your LASIK procedure, your doctor will likely recommend comfort plugs. These tiny plugs are inserted into your tear ducts to promote proper optical moisture. Temporary plugs are used in most cases, and these evaporate on their own after three months. For more severe cases, silicone plugs are used. These can remain in the eye for a long time, but can also be removed by an optometrist at any time.
If you aren’t sure what the cause of your dry eye is, the National Eye Institute suggested first trying over-the-counter artificial tears. If you foresee using this treatment in large quantities, avoid purchasing products that contain harsh chemicals and preservatives. It is also recommended to wear sunglasses that fit snugly to the face, as they can help protect your eyes from irritating debris and may slow the process of tear evaporation. You should also make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and avoiding dry environments. If you suspect dry air in your home might be a factor in your eye irritation, consider using a humidifier to improve air quality.
Overall, there are many factors that can contribute to both long- and short-term dry eyes. Both types of cases are treatable, so discuss your issue with a physician if symptoms persist.
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