Dry Eye Disease is a surprisingly common affliction, affecting an estimated 30 million Americans. The condition occurs when your tears cannot provide adequate protection for your eyes. So, Dry Eye may develop either because you don’t produce enough tears or produce poor-quality tears. This “tear instability” leaves your eyes less protected, causing inflammation and could lead to damage of the eye’s surface, and worse vision.
Dry eye symptoms mimic other tired eye conditions. This leads many people to put up with them rather than getting their eyes checked. Your eyes may sting, burn, or even tear. Or, you may experience dry eyes in certain situations, as on an airplane or in air-conditioned rooms. Also, you may especially experience symptoms after a number of hours of screen time.
What are Common Dry Eye Disease Symptoms?
- Stinging, burning and scratchy sensations in your eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Eye redness that lasts
- A sensation of having something in your eyes without an obvious cause
- Difficulty wearing contact lenses for any length of time
- Difficulty with nighttime driving, especially oncoming headlight glare
- Watery eyes, which ironically is the body’s response to the irritation of dry eyes, often caused by rapid tear evaporation due to a lack of protective oil from the Meibomian glands in your eyelids
- Recurring blurred vision or eye fatigue
When Should You See an Optometrist About Dry Eye Disease?
See your eye care professional if you seem to have continual symptoms of dry eyes, which could be any of the above. You should have an eye exam at least annually, in any event, so catalog your symptoms for your next appointment. Plenty of inexpensive treatments can bring Dry Eye under control if diagnosed early.
What Causes Dry Eye?
Dry Eye inhibits your tears from properly protecting your eyes. Your tear film has three layers: fatty oils called Meibum secreted from the Meibomian glands in the eyelid, aqueous fluid and mucus. This combination normally keeps the surface of your eyes lubricated, protected, smooth and clear. If any of these three develop problems, you may develop Dry Eye.
Decreased tear production
When you cannot produce enough water (the ‘aqueous fluid’ component of tears), you will not produce enough tears to cover your eyes consistently. Common causes of decreased tear production include:
- Medical conditions like Sjogren’s syndrome, allergic eye disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, thyroid disorders or vitamin A deficiency
- Certain medications like antihistamines, decongestants, antidepressants; drugs for high blood pressure and other medical conditions, acne, etc.
Increased tear evaporation
With normal tear production, the oil from the Meibomian glands, covers the tear film and keeps the water from evaporating too quickly. When the glands become clogged, the oil is insufficient to protect the tear from rapid evaporation. Common causes of increased tear evaporation include:
• Posterior blepharitis (meibomian gland dysfunction, or MGD)
• Blinking less often, which could have a medical cause (as with Parkinson’s Disease.) Or simply when you concentrate while reading, driving or working at a computer
• Eyelid problems, such as the lids turning outward (ectropion) and the lids turning inward (entropion)
• Preservatives in some eye drops
• Spending time in windy, smoky, dry air
• Vitamin A deficiency
In 85% of cases where tear evaporation is the problem, MGD is a likely culprit. Fortunately, you can often control MGD with daily application of warm eye compresses. The heat needed to loosen up the Meibomian gland oil is about 110°F. And you need to apply that heat for about 10-15 minutes daily. EyeGiene’s Insta-Warmth system does that conveniently and automatically. This makes home treatment of Dry Eye caused by MGD an easy, relaxing regime to follow.
Dry Eye Disease Responds to Home Treatments
Do not let Dry Eye symptoms linger, as early diagnosis and treatment keeps the condition under control. This allows you to live without the gritty, painful symptoms and maintain healthier eyes! Click here for our shopping site for the best home treatment for MGD: The EyeGiene Insta-Warmth mask with Warming Wafers.