What causes dry eyes? How do I treat dry eyes? How do you get rid of dry eyes?
Having dry eye means you can't produce enough tears to coat your eyes; subsequently, your eyes can't properly eliminate dust and other irritants. Dry eye syndrome rarely causes permanent loss of sight, but it can make your eyes more vulnerable to infections or inflammation of the surface of your eyes.
Symptoms of dry eye can include sensitivity to light, redness (conjunctivitis), blurred vision, burning, itching or even a sensation of having sand in your eyes, when you know darn well that you haven't been near a beach for months or a sandbox for years. The most common form of dry eye occurs . . . drum roll please . . . when the body doesn't manufacture enough tears to keep your eyes properly moistened. Maybe you had that one already figured out.
Dry eye syndrome, known in medical terminology as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (aka KCS, and please stick around for the spelling test at the end of this article), can be caused by a number of things, and it can go away on its own or last a long time. By the way, you don't really get a choice of which one you will experience—hopefully the former.
Possible Causes of Dry Eyes - Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)
Here are some of the possible causes of KCS, offered by webmd.com:
- Age. So what else is new? The glands that make tears work less and less efficiently as you get older, so it stands to reason that the reduced production of tears will mean drier eyes. When eyelids begin to droop as time goes by, the seal against the eyeball that retains moisture is broken, and moisture is lost. More than 3 million women in the U.S. over 50 have moderate to severe dry eye; count about 1.5 million males 50 and above in that same boat, although the condition can quickly be treated with artificial tears.
- Autoimmune diseases are another culprit, hindering the body's ability to produce tears. Examples of such diseases include lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Eye surgery. Cataract surgery and Lasik surgery can help by correcting problems with eyesight, but such surgery, on occasion, can damage the nerves involved in making tears.
- Low humidity. That means not much moisture in the air, like when you are flying in an airplane or in a room blowing AC.
- Medications. Antihistamines, beta-blockers and a few antidepresseants are among those that can cause dry eye. If that's happening to you, see your doctor. He or she can probably offer another solution, such as switching prescriptions or doses. Oral contraceptives also are mentioned in this category, per medicinenet.com.
- Doing a task that involves a long time spent focusing with the eyes, such as reading, watching TV or looking at a computer screen, can result in reduced blinking of the eyes. This allows for excessive evaporation of tears.
- Other causes, identified by healthline.com, include hormone replacement therapy, long-term contact lens wear, allergies, and exposure to the wind or dry air.
Potential Remedies and Treatment for Dry Eyes
Those are the causes; let's now look at some remedies to dry eye, provided by healthline.com:
- Eye drops. There are different kinds; you want to be sure you pick a type known to increase eye moisture. Some, believe it or not, are not made to do that, even if you might think so when going through that yucky sensation of reaching above your head, looking upward and trying to keep your eye open while you drop in the drop.
- Artificial tears. This is not where a politician tries to convey he or she has a heartfelt empathy for something or someone, as long as the cameras are rolling (aka crocodile tears, or phony tears). In this case, artificial tears simply are eyedrops used to lubricate dry eyes. They are available without a prescription.
- Lacrimal plugs. This is a reversible procedure, pretty much painless, in which the drainage holes in the corners of the eyes are blocked.
- Medications. One commonly prescribed is Restasis, which aims to increase tear quantity in your eyes and reduce the risk of cornea damage.
- Nutrition. A well-balanced diet is the foundation. Omega-3 essential fatty acid supplements can lend a helping hand.
- Surgery. This usually entails a permanent plugging of the drainage holes at the eyes' inner corners.
And with that, the eyes have it.