Your eyes may feel itchy and sore, and sometimes it’s difficult to determine the source of your discomfort. So, what’s the difference between eye irritation and dry eyes?
Dry eye is precisely what the name suggests: It’s an eye condition that causes extreme dryness, resulting in various symptoms. Just like eye irritation, dry eye can cause redness and burning, but a lack of tears propels these sensations.
Your tear film has 3 layers, each with its own function to keep eyes moist and bacteria-free:
- The outer oily lipid layer: Slows down evaporation and works to keep the eyes’ surface smooth
- The watery middle aqueous layer: Hydrates the eye and channels nutrients to the correct position
- The inner mucous layer: Makes your tears stick to the eyeball
If your tears don’t provide enough lubrication to keep your eyes comfortable, you could be suffering from dry eyes. When tears are imbalanced, they cannot provide the proper protection and hydration to our eyes, leading to excessive dryness.
What Causes Tear Film Imbalance?
Your tear production can be inadequate for a large number of reasons.
There are a variety of health conditions that can affect your eyesight, like diabetes, blepharitis, and rheumatoid arthritis. These conditions may cause inflammation and blockages, preventing your eyes from producing the main components of the tear film.
Other factors may contribute to dry eyes, including:
- Age: Dry eyes are more common in those over 50 years old.
- Allergies: Allergic reactions and allergy medications can affect tear film production.
- Vitamin A deficiency: Dry eyes are one of the first signs of a vitamin A deficit.
- Hormones: Hormonal changes, like ones experienced during pregnancy, on hormonal replacement therapy, or menopause, can cause dryness.
- Medications: Many medicines have ocular side effects, including cold medicines, birth control pills, beta-blockers, sleeping pills, and heartburn medications.
- Environment: Smoky, windy, or dry climates can cause your tears to evaporate more quickly.
- Contact Lenses: Long-term contact lens wear can exacerbate dry eye symptoms.
- LASIK eye surgery: Dry eyes are a common side effect of LASIK surgery.
- Close-up tasks: Spending more than 2 hours on a computer, reading for long periods, or driving long distances without pausing to rest can aggravate dry eye symptoms.
Watch For These Symptoms
Dry eye symptoms can occur infrequently, and may only last for short periods. It’s essential to consult your optometrist for treatment if discomfort from dry eyes becomes an everyday problem. Here are some of the symptoms of chronic dry eye:
- Blurry vision
- Burning or stinging eyes
- Stringy mucus around or inside the eye
- Itchy eyes
- Eye fatigue
- Red eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Feeling like there’s something in the eyes
- Watery or teary eyes
- Eye & eyelid redness
- Puffy or swollen eyes
- Discomfort wearing contact lenses
Dry eye treatments can include:
- Changes to prescriptions: Speaking to your doctor about medications with ocular side effects, and making adjustments to prescriptions can help improve dry eyes. Small changes like different medications, or adjusting dosages can make a difference.
- Changes to Environment: It may seem simple, but some changes in the home can help, like:
- Using a humidifier.
- Sitting away from an air conditioner.
- Limiting outdoor time on windy or smoky days.
- Taking frequent breaks from screens and computers.
- Upping your fluid intake
- Medications: Speak to your optometrist about prescription medications that help reduce eye inflammation or stimulate tear production.
- Punctal plugging: These little plugs are made of silicone or gel-like material. They are placed into the tear ducts to prevent your tears from draining too quickly. They can be removed easily when necessary.
- Eye drops: Mild cases of dryness can be relieved by over-the-counter eye drops. Keep in mind that there are a large number of options available, and everyone’s eyesight is unique. Some eye drops can actually aggravate dry eye symptoms! It’s always best to speak with your optometrist for a recommendation.
- Eye Surface Inflammation and eyelid treatments: If dry eye is caused by blepharitis or meibomian gland dysfunction, prescription eye drops or ointments can reduce inflammation. Your eye doctor may use warm compresses to break up any blockages and help improve your symptoms.
Relief is Waiting
Dry eye goes hand-in-hand with uncomfortable symptoms, and you don’t need to suffer through them! This condition is becoming more common in America, and we are standing by with personalized treatment plans for our patients.
We are dedicated to providing relief for dry eyes, no matter the cause or symptoms. Your solution depends on the cause of the condition, and a comprehensive eye exam can help determine the preferred treatment.
If you have read through our list of symptoms and would like more information on dry eye, do not hesitate to contact the team at La Paz Optometric Center. Book yourself a dry eye therapy consultation, and get ready to say hello to refreshed vision.