People get dry eyes when their eyes do not produce sufficient tears or the tears evaporate too quickly. This results in the feeling that the eyes are dry and irritated.
This condition is relatively common and about a third of adults older than 55 years of age have this problem. Although the cause of dry eyes is mostly multifactorial and difficult to pinpoint, there are specific diseases such as Sjögren’s syndrome (a form of autoimmune disorder) that are known to cause dry eyes. There are also certain medications which may cause or worsen dry eyes.
Apart from feeling dry, what other symptoms should I expect?
Other common symptoms of dry eyes are
- Eyes feel burning
- Eyes may appear reddish and feel itchy
- Vision may be blurry
- Watery eyes alternated with dry eyes
- These symptoms may also be made worse by light, or being in a cold/dry (such as air-conditioned) environment or when it’s windy.
Is there are need to see my doctor?
If you experience yellowish discharge, swelling of eyes, pain or persistent redness, irritation for several days, then you should consult your doctor because your eyes may suffer from an infection.
Otherwise, dry eyes are mostly benign and may be relieved by over-the-counter eye drops.
I see. What are these eyes drops?
Artificial Tears are the mainstay of treatment for dry eyes. They are widely available in pharmacies and may be purchased over-the-counter without a prescription nor the presence of a pharmacist. Although the most common form is eye drop, Artificial Tears can also come in the form of gel and ointments. Learn more on how to apply eye drops, gel and ointments here.
If your eyes also appear red due to dry eyes, it is advisable to avoid eye drops that are used specifically for redness and eye allergies/irritation as they do not treat the cause of the problem (i.e. dry eyes).
So that’s it? By using artificial tears all my dry eye problems will be solved?
Unfortunately, artificial tears only relieve the symptoms of dry eyes, it is not a cure for the problem. As long as you are using it, it will provide relief. These eye drops are very safe and may be used continuously for long periods of time. If the condition of dry eyes persists for more than a month, it would be prudent to consult your doctor. You may also be referred to an ophthalmologist, the eye specialist, for further evaluation.
Other than artificial tears, are there any things else I need to look out for if I have dry eyes?
There are many things that one may do to reduce the discomfort caused by dry eyes depending on the situation. For example:
- When using the computer or reading, try to blink more, this will help moisten the eyes.
- Install a humidifier in the room or location where you spend most of your time.
- Try to minimize the use of air-conditioning or heaters where possible.
- Avoid being in the direct flow of air from the air-conditioner or heater.
- During the cold or dry season, use protective eyewear such as goggles or glasses that shield the eyes from wind.
- Avoid polluted air
- Riordan-Eva P, Augsburger J. Vaughan & Asbury’s general ophthalmology.
- Maxine A Papadakis; Stephen J McPhee; Michael W Rabow. Current medical diagnosis & treatment 2018. New York, N.Y: McGraw Hill Medical; 2017.
- Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mishism/3656045384