Are Your Eyes Too Dry To Cry?
Do your eyes feel gritty and burn sometimes? Does the slightest bit of air make your eyes tear excessively? Does smoke make you tear like crazy? Have your eyes become more sensitive to light? Have you become less able to wear your soft contacts as long as you used to? If the answer to these questions is yes, you may have dry eye syndrome.
Dry eye is a condition that affects millions of people every day. It is often a normal part of the aging process. It is estimated that nearly 75% of people over the age of 65 will experience some form of dry eye syndrome. It can be both a seasonal problem or a chronic problem for some. While it occurs in both men and women, it is more common in women who are pregnant or post-menopausal. People who have chronic allergies and contact lens wearers have a greater risk of developing dry eyes. Other causes include exposure to environmental conditions, injuries to the eye, or general health problems. For example, people with arthritis and diabetes are more prone to dry eye. Some other specific causes of dry eye include:
- Dry air
- Indoor heating and air conditioning
- Computer screens
- High altitudes
- Eye surgery
Computer vision syndrome is a recently recognized entity that has evolved with the increasing popularity of computers in businesses, schools and at home. More and more, we use computers in our daily activities.
Oftentimes, we stare at the screen all day, forgetting to blink, which is the necessary way the eye replenishes the cornea with fluid. The decrease in blinking only causes an increase in dryness, fatigue, light sensitivity, burning, and eyestrain over time. Dry eye syndrome can be the result unless some preventative steps are taken ahead of time.
Dry eye syndrome is literally the eye’s inability to lubricate and tear correctly or adequately. Oddly enough, some people who have dry eye syndrome actually tear excessively. Unfortunately, the pH or acidity of their tears is altered so that the eyes still feel dry and itchy, causing them to tear continuously.
The use of certain medications can also alter the eye’s ability to lubricate. Some of the most common medications are:
- Blood pressure medication
- Anti-anxiety medication
Certain types of diseases can also alter the eyes, these include:
- Thyroid deficiencies
- Sjogrens syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Autoimmune disorders (i.e. lupus, HIV)
- Bell’s palsy
- Myasthenia gravis
Your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following treatments:
- Artificial teardrops. There are many to choose from. Ask your eye doctor for recommendations.
- Ointments and gels placed in the eyes to lubricate. These generally last longer than drops. They can blur the vision for a time during the first few minutes after instillation. These are generally needed less often than drops.
- Temporarily or permanently plugging the tear ducts while manually replacing the tears with drops or ointments. This is a very effective way to keep your own tears around longer to lubricate the eyes and decrease the number and frequency of artificial tears necessary to treat the dry eye problem.
- Hormone replacement, if due to menopause.
- Change in birth control prescription, if applicable.
- Change contact lens to one more appropriate for a person with dry eye syndrome. Some contact lenses absorb water.
Therefore, if you are not making enough tears in the first place, and you are wearing a contact lens that absorbs a lot of water to itself and away from your eye, you are effectively making your dry eye worse. Ask your eye doctor for details especially if you find that you can’t wear your contacts more than a few hours before you have to take them out.
In addition to this, some natural products such as oral flaxseed oil have been shown to be quite useful for patients with dry eye syndrome. Most patients can get this at their local health food store. Normally, doses range from 1000mg to 3000mg orally a day with meals for effective relief of symptoms.