Are your eyes red, itchy or watery? Does it feel like something’s stuck inside your eye that you can’t see? If so, you may have dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome is a common problem among many and one of the top reasons patients seek help from eye doctors. Read on as Progressive Eyecare, your leading provider of quality eyeglasses and other optometry services, explains everything you need to know about this condition.
Why Are Tears Important?
Your eyes constantly produce tears to maintain your visual health and comfort. Whenever you blink, a film of tears spreads over your cornea. The tears wash away foreign matter, keeping the surface of your eyes smooth and clear. This way, light rays that pass through the cornea are evenly distributed.
Your optometrist explains that your tears are made up of three layers. The outermost part of your tear film is produced by meibomian glands in the eyelids and mostly consists of oil. This layer keeps the corneal surface smooth and prevents tears from drying up too quickly. The middle watery layer is secreted by the lacrimal glands, which are located on the edge of the upper eyelids. This layer washes away foreign particles and keeps your eyes clean. Lastly, the innermost mucus region is made in the conjunctiva and help spread the tears over your corneal surface, keeping your eyes moisturized. If the production of any of these three tear layers is compromised, you may develop dry eyes.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
Your eye doctor shares that there are two primary reasons you may develop dry eyes. The first is a failure to produce a sufficient quantity of tears. Factors like aging or living in a dry climate can cause this to happen. The second cause is a problem with the quality of your tears resulting from a problem with one of the three layers of your tears.
Who Is at Risk of Developing Dry Eyes?
As you age, hormonal changes may affect your tear quality and quantity. Wearing contact lenses can also increase your risk of developing dry eyes, although caring for your lenses properly will reduce this risk. Women are more likely to develop dry eyes due to hormonal changes they experience when they get pregnant, use contraceptives or undergo menopause. Certain medications have also been found to reduce tear production, such as decongestants, antihistamines and antihypertensives.
In addition, certain eye conditions can lead to dry eyes, such as blepharitis, which is the inflammation of your eyelids. Your eye doctor also shares that people with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or thyroid conditions are more likely to develop dry eyes.
Constant exposure to wind, smoke and dry climates may hasten your tears’ evaporation rate, leading to dry eyes. Staring at your TV or laptop screen for long hours may also cause you to blink less than the usual, contributing to the onset of dry eyes. Those who undergo LASIK may experience compromised eye surface lubrication afterward, as well.
What Are the Symptoms of Dry Eyes?
Having an inadequate level or inconsistent quality of tears may cause red, sore and tired eyes. Your eyes may also feel itchy and irritated, as if they are burning or stinging. Your eye care specialist explains that your eyes may try to compensate, stimulating the production of the watery layer. This mechanism often fails, however, as the moisture isn’t retained long enough to correct the underlying problem.
Chronic cases of dry eyes may lead to eye inflammation and corneal surface damage. You may experience blurry vision and increased sensitivity to light, also referred to as photophobia. Visit your optometrist immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
How Is Dry Eye Syndrome Managed?
Comprehensive eye exams can help detect and diagnose dry eye syndrome. We may start by asking about your medical history, taking note of your age, lifestyle and living conditions. Then, we’ll perform an external assessment of your eyes, including your lid structure and blinking dynamics. Using magnification and bright light, we’ll evaluate your cornea and eyelids, as well.
Once we have reviewed your history and potential risk factors, we’ll then create a customized treatment plan. This may include performing lid hygiene and care regularly. We may also suggest applying warm compresses to your eyes to relieve your discomfort.
For those who regularly use contact lenses, we may advise wearing eyeglasses in the meantime to reduce the irritation of your eyes. The lenses can also serve as barrier, blocking drying winds and foreign matter from coming in contact with your eyes. We may recommend applying artificial tear drops, as well. Like natural ones, they contain water, mucus and oil to keep your eyes moisturized.
We may prescribe medicated eye drops too that are formulated to increase tear production in your eyes. For more severe cases, your optometrist may suggest inserting punctal plugs in your tear ducts. These are tiny silicone devices that are placed in your tear ducts to prevent your tears from draining too quickly.
For reliable optometry services, turn to Progressive Eyecare. Apart from managing dry eyes, we also provide an array of high-quality eyeglasses and contact lenses, comprehensive eye exams and more. Call us at (702) 744-8005 for North Las Vegas, (702) 723-4888 for Boca Park or (702) 357-8202 for Southwest Las Vegas. You may also complete our (form) to schedule a visit. We serve residents in North Las Vegas, Las Vegas, Henderson and Summerlin.