Do your eyes sometimes feel dry, scratchy and difficult to move around? Do you find yourself blinking more often to try and generate some lubrication and make it easier to focus? If so, you could be experiencing a condition that is known as dry eyes.
Dry eyes may sound like purely a symptom associated with an ocular condition. However, it is also the name given to the condition itself. Although there can be a variety of reasons why dry eyes occur, it is normally something to do with the function of something called the lacrimal glands. Each eye has one of these almond-shaped glands which are responsible for producing tear film, Contrary to popular belief, tear film is not made of simply water but instead a complex combination of proteins, antibodies and naturally-occurring oils. These help to nourish and protect the surface of the eye, keeping them lubricated, healthy and functioning as they should.
Exactly what causes the lacrimal gland to stop functioning effectively can vary. Many people who suffer from dry eyes are of older age and age-related changes are often attributed to the development of the condition. This is because as we get older, many of our body systems simply fail to function as well as they once did. In the case of the lacrimal gland, it is believed to stop producing tear film as effectively, causing the eyes to dry out.
Other causes believed to contribute towards the development of dry eyes include:
Fluctuations in hormone levels, such as during menopause
Collagen vascular diseases.
Having previously undergone laser eye surgery
Injury/trauma to the eyes
A number of patients exhibit the key symptoms of dry eyes but are actually found not to have the condition at all. They do however have something in common – extended screen time. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that we spend more time looking at some sort of screen than ever before. However, today is it not so much televisions and computer/laptop screens as the screens of our smartphones and tablet. However, spending so much time focusing on a reflective screen that is mere inches from our eyes can lead to a range of ocular conditions, from near-sightedness to the symptoms of dry eyes, which occurs because we blink less often when we are staring at a screen. Patients who experience dry eye symptoms as a result of screen time can reduce their symptoms by making sure that they blink regularly and take frequent breaks to look away from their screen, instead focusing on objects in the distance.
Aside from feeling like your eyes are dehydrated, there are several other symptoms that will alert you to this condition. These include:
Redness in and around the eyes
Eyelids that feel particularly heavy and can cause you to feel tired
Alternating between dry eyes and very watery eyes
Discharge from the eyes
Difficulty putting in and taking out contact lenses
Difficulty paying close visual attention to something for more than a few minutes, such as when reading a book
The good news is that treating dry eyes is usually fairly simple and most patients find that the solutions given to them are very successful. If the underlying cause can’t be treated by changing your medication or managing your hormones, your eye doctor will almost certainly begin with prescribing you eyedrops that replicate tear film and eliminate the symptoms of dry eyes. There are also several topical treatments in the form of gels and ointments that can be used to stimulate tear production.
If the standard go-to treatments for dry eyes do not work, your eye doctor may then explore more intensive treatment options including Lipiflow, which works by breaking up blockages in the lacrimal gland so that tear film production can recommence more effectively.
Our experienced eye doctors will be delighted to discuss all of the various treatment options with you and help you decide which will be most successful in treating your dry eyes.
If you are concerned that you may be suffering from dry eyes and would like to be assessed by an experienced and knowledgeable eye doctor, we would be happy to assist you. To schedule your confidential appointment or learn more about our comprehensive list of ocular services, contact our offices in Irvine, CA today.