By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
Your eyes are tearing up a lot. They don’t look red, but you’re worried you might have an infection or something in your eye. Don’t worry. It’s more likely that you have dry eye. But what does that mean? Read on to learn more.
Our eyes need tears to stay healthy and comfortable. When we blink, a film of tears spreads over the eye. This keeps the cornea – the surface of the eye – smooth and clear. However, as we age, our eyes naturally dry out because the production or composition of tears changes. Oil glands that are important in helping make healthy tears may not function as well. In women after the age of 50, decreased tear production commonly occurs due to menopause. That’s why it’s important to talk to your parents if they show dry eye symptoms.
While redness and itchiness are less common symptoms, we more commonly experience stinging, mucus, and blurry vision. In many cases, people with dry eye will experience excessive tearing, as their eyes are responding to the irritation on the cornea produced from dry eye disease.
“We often call this situation reflex tearing,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Sumit Gupta, MD, said. “It is a challenge convincing patients that their tearing problem is often from excessive dryness.”
What causes dry eye?
Dry eye may also be associated with a number of conditions, including arthritis, thyroid disease, vitamin deficiency, glaucoma, eye drop treatment, and Sjögren’s Syndrome. Also, if you or your parents take medicine such as diuretics or beta-blockers for high blood pressure, sleeping pills, allergy medicines, or anxiety medicine, they are more likely to experience dry eye.
Outside factors can also affect your eyes. They can include environmental factors like dry heated air from indoor ventilation during winter months, wind, and smoke. Also, too much time on the computer can be a problem, too. Since people naturally blink less when they’re staring at a screen, their eyes tend to dry out faster.
If you think anyone in your family has dry eye, encourage them to get their eyes checked with their ophthalmologist. Doctors can usually diagnose it by examining your eyes. Beyond diagnosing dry eye, a routine eye exam could identify a more serious condition that may be causing dry eyes or other vision problems.
How can dry eye be treated?
A number of treatments are available for dry eye. Artificial tears can lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture. The doctor may also want to close the channels through which their tears drain in order to conserve tears. Warm compresses and eyelid massage can help the oil gland function by improving healthy tear production. Medicated eye drops that decrease ocular inflammation associated with dry eye are commonly prescribed if initial steps are not helpful or if dry eye is significant.
There are a number of non-medical tactics you can employ, too. You can avoid wind and dry air, not just outside, but also in overheated rooms, too.
“A humidifier in the home in winter months is very helpful,” Dr. Gupta said.
Smoking should also be avoided, as it can irritate the eyes.
Adding vitamin A to your diet is also a good idea, since it helps treat dry eye. Good vitamin A sources include carrots, sweet potato, kale, spinach, broccoli, and eggs.
Dry eyes can be uncomfortable, but following the information in this blog can help you and your parents keep their eyes properly moistened and seeing clearly.
To make an appointment with Dr. Gupta or any of CEENTA’s ophthalmologists, call 704-295-3000.