The term “dry eyes” is more than a turn of phrase that means you’re not crying. Dry eyes actually is the name of an extremely uncomfortable medical condition. Without the proper amount of moisture in your eyes, a variety of problems and symptoms can arise. There are numerous causes for this condition and several methods to manage and treat it.
But if you’re a woman over the age of 50, your tear production usually diminishes due to aging or hormonal changes. Hormonal changes in women can be worsened by pregnancy, birth control or menopause. It’s hard to believe, but such a seemingly simple problem as dry eyes can drastically impact your quality of life. Dry eyes can make it difficult to read and reduce your ability to look comfortably at computer screens for extended periods of time.
How and Why It Occurs
The condition known dry eyes is caused by either a lack of tears or when your body produces a poor quality of tears. Tears actually serve a surprising number of purposes other than emotional expression. Tears are what keep your eyes lubricated and free from dirt, debris or other particles that could get in your eyes causing discomfort or damage. Dry eyes can be tremendously uncomfortable.
The condition is often attributed to causes that are situational, environmental or internal. When your eyes become irritated for any other reason due to dry eyes, it could be a signal from your body that there is potentially a bigger issue going on. Not choosing to heed the warning signs can lead to major troubles down the road.
Symptoms to Watch
Dry eye symptoms typically affect both eyes and may be indicated by:
- Tired eyes
- Blurred vision
- Stinging, burning or scratchy eyes
- Watery eyes
- Light sensitivity
- Mucus in or around eyes
- Difficulty wearing contacts
- Feeling of having something in your eyes
- Trouble with driving at night
Dry eyes are the result of improper tear production. For some people, this simply means they don’t produce enough tears. For others, it’s either because their tears evaporate too fast or there is an imbalance in the composition of their tears.
Swelling along the edges of your eyelids or lash line can hinder your oil glands from producing enough oil to add to your tears. When this occurs, the tears evaporate much more quickly than normal tears because they have a significantly higher water content. Other medical conditions can lead to dry eyes, such as the following:
Keratoconjuctivitis refers to the inflammation of the surface of your eye, called the cornea or the conjunctiva, which is the thin skin that covers the front of the eye and lines the inside of your eyelids. This swelling usually happens in response to some kind of bacteria. It can result from insufficient tear production. The condition can be marked by:
- Small bump on the cornea
Keratitis is another condition that’s caused by irritation or swelling of your cornea when your eyes are dry for too long. In some cases, keratitis can lead to vision loss from scaring on your cornea. Keratitis is treatable, but remains the leading cause of corneal blindness caused by infection in the United States. It’s most commonly recognized by:
- Feeling something in your eye
- Watery eyes
- Sensitivity to light
- Blurred vision
A variety of causes can lead to keratitis. It most commonly occurs after some sort of trauma or injury to your eye. Contact lenses are also a common culprit because they can cause dryness on your eye’s surface. It can also be caused by infections such as herpes simplex A or the shingles virus that remains dormant in your body after chickenpox. Parasites, bacteria and vitamin deficiency are less common causes.
Keratoconjuctivitis sicca is the term used to describe the condition when you aren’t able to produce enough tears and develop an infection or inflammation. The most common reasons for this type of decreased tear production are:
- Tear gland damage
- Laser eye surgery (which may only be temporary)
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, lupus, thyroid disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma and Parkinson’s disease
- Some medications, such as birth control, decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure, acne and hormone replacement therapy
- Some vitamin deficiencies
How a Diagnosis Is Reached
While over-the-counter eye drops may lessen the symptoms of your dry eyes, they do not treat the cause. It’s important to see an ophthalmologist if your symptoms persist or get worse. During your visit, your ophthalmologist most likely has you undergo a comprehensive eye exam to determine the source of the trouble.
It may be necessary to measure your tear production or determine the quality of your tears. Be sure to list all of the symptoms you’re experiencing and let your eye doctor know about any medications, vitamins or supplements you’re currently taking.
Treatment for Dry Eyes
If you’re among the people whose symptoms are mild and manageable with artificial tears, further medical attention may not be necessary. There are, however, other options available to you. Ask your doctor if these treatments fit your diagnosis.
Some treatments are geared more towards managing your condition. Others are intended to reverse it. Some treatments can improve your tear quality and others can hinder them from evaporating or draining as quickly. For example:
- Antibiotics can be taken by mouth or applied directly to your eye in either drop or ointment form. Some eye drops used to treat inflammation or swelling contain immune-suppressing medications and are not recommended for extended or long-term use.
- Other drugs can stimulate tear production. In cases of moderate to severe symptoms, tiny inserts can be placed between your eye and your lid. The insert will dissolve and release a lubricating substance directly onto your eye.
- Autologous blood serum drops are actually made from your own blood and work in cases where other treatments have failed.
Other treatments include:
- Plugging or closing your ducts to reduce tear loss
- Using special contact lenses
- Unblocking oil glands
- Massage therapy
- Light therapy
Your ophthalmologist works with you to custom-fit the best treatment for your specific needs and conditions from the many options available. But an ounce of prevention goes a long way when it comes to taking care of your eyes. Pay attention to what your eyes are trying to tell you. It could save your vision.
Important Reminder: This information is only intended to provide guidance, not a definitive medical advice. Please consult eye doctor about your specific condition. Only a trained, experienced board certified eye doctor can determine an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.
Do you have any questions about Dry Eyes Treatment in NYC? Would like to schedule an appointment with Manhattan Ophthalmologist or Optometrist, Dr. Saba Khodadadian of Manhattan Eye Specialists, please contact our office for consultation with Manhattan Eye doctor.
Dr. Saba Khodadadian, Optometrist (NYC Eye Doctor)
New York, NY 10010
(Between Madison Ave & Park Ave)
☎ (212) 533-4821