Red, itchy, burning, and dry eyes are all symptoms of dry eye syndrome and if you suffer from it you’re not alone. In fact, 26 million Americans experience it each year. At some point in their lives, half of all adults suffer from dry eyes during their lifetime and it’s more common once you reach the age of 50.
Did you know that men and women suffer from dry eyes at different rates? Women are more likely than men to experience dry eyes because of hormonal changes like pregnancy and menopause. You should know that you don’t have to deal with dry eyes; there are many treatments available that can alleviate the condition. Here are some symptoms, causes, and treatments for dry eyes.
Even though the symptoms depend on the person, the following are symptoms of dry eyes: burning or sore eyes, itchy eyes, red eyes, light sensitivity, dryness in eyes, and blurred vision. Another common symptom is excessive tear production or watery eyes. Although it seems counterintuitive, excessive tear production and watery eyes occur because tears are produced due to the surface of your eyes being dry, which triggers tears, but these tears don’t actually help dry eyes as they don’t remain long enough to combat the issue.
There are many causes related to dry eyes, but the most significant is age; most people over 65 deal with dry eye syndrome. In addition to age, there are also environmental factors that play a role. The more time you spend outside in dry or windy conditions, the likelier you are to experience dry eyes. Air conditions and fans are also to blame because when they move air around the house they remove humidity from the air which results in dust and allergens making their way into your eyes. If you are a frequent flyer, you may also experience dry air on planes, which can exacerbate dry eyes.
Another common cause of dry eyes is the use of technology, specifically televisions, computers, smartphones, and tablets. At work, adults spend up to nine hours in front of a screen, which leads to less blinking and an increase in tear evaporation and dry eyes.
The last factors are health conditions and medications. Lupus, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis are related to dry eyes. Medications that are linked to dry eyes include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, antihistamines, and birth control.
Don’t worry, there are a lot of effective treatments for dry eyes and for many of them you don’t even need a prescription. Many people’s symptoms will disappear from over-the-counter eye drops. If this doesn’t work, your doctor can prescribe you a drug called cholinergic to help you produce natural tears or prescription drops or ointments to reduce inflammation of the eyelids which can prevent your glands from introducing oil into your years. Chances are that you’ll respond to one of these treatment options, but if you don’t, there are autologous blood serum drops, which remove the red blood cells from your blood and it’s mixed with salt sodium, replicating your own tears.
There are also physical changes to parts of the eye that can help alleviate dry eyes when all else fails. For patients whose tear ducts drain tears too quickly, doctors can plug the ducts with removable silicon devices or they can permanently close the ducts. There’s also another procedure that gently massages the eye and uses pulsed light to unblock clogged oil glands.
There are a few steps you can take to prevent dry eyes from happening which involve making some simple lifestyle changes. First, when using a computer, a smartphone or a tablet, be sure to blink often. When you’re outside, always wear sunglasses and keep hydrated wherever you are. Also, be sure to load up on dietary supplements, especially ones that contain omega-3 fatty acids. Another common routine, which sounds odd at first, is washing your eyes and eyelids with baby shampoo daily. Lastly, it’s important to have yearly checkups with an optometrist or an ophthalmologist, to prevent dry eye syndrome before it occurs.