Dry eye syndrome is a common condition that impacts millions of Americans. The eye problem can be chronic or temporary. Most dry eye patients experience discomfort that ranges from mild irritation and redness to constant itching, stinging, or burning.
What is dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye is an uncomfortable eye problem that causes a lack of eye moisture and increased inflammation in the tear glands and tear ducts. Your risk of developing dry eye increases with age, as well as if you have a medical history of eye problems such as conjunctivitis, corneal infections, or keratitis.
What causes dry eye?
Every time you blink, a coating of tears is spread over the surface of your eye. This layer of tears, also known as tear film, is responsible for lubricating the outer surface of the eye. Tear film also protects the eye from infection and foreign materials.
Tear film is made up of three separate layers:
- Oil (lipid) layer
- Water (aqueous) layer
- Mucin (mucous) layer
If any of these components are missing in the tear production process, the eye won’t produce tear film properly, which results in dry eye syndrome.
What are the risk factors?
Dry eyes develop for numerous reasons, but they are most often a result of the following risk factors:
- Age. Dry eyes are a natural part of the aging process, as the eye starts to lose its ability to produce tears as you grow older. It’s common for patients over the age of 65 to experience dry eye.
- Gender. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes because of hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. Oral contraceptives and menopause also affect tear production in women.
- Medications. Medicines such as antihistamines, decongestants, blood pressure medication and antidepressants can reduce the number of tears produced in the eye. Certain medical conditions such as immune system disorders, diabetes, or thyroid problems can also increase your risk for developing dry eye.
- Environmental Conditions. Frequent exposure to wind, smoke, or dry climates can make tears evaporate at a faster rate, which can make you more susceptible to dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye treatment options
Chronic dry eye can be treated with prescription eye drops or medication. Over-the-counter medications like artificial tears, gels, or ointments can also help lubricate the eye and alleviate dry eye symptoms.
Another great treatment we often recommend are eyelid heat masks made by Eye Eco to help improve the outer oil layer of your tears. They provide the proper heat necessary in a comfortable goggle design.
Since dry eye can be caused by multiple factors, a comprehensive eye exam is necessary in order to find the best treatment for dry eye syndrome. Your eye doctor will review your medical history and analyze your tear production to determine a dry eye solution that works best for you.