July is dedicated to the awareness of dry eye disease, a multifactorial issue that over 25 million people in the United States alone suffer with regularly. As well as wishing you a happy and safe Fourth of July, Nevada Eye, and Ear want to help inform people about dry eye syndrome. Despite the amount of people afflicted with dry eye disease, it is largely under diagnosed and recognized. In general, most people only notice their tears when they cry or laugh, but the surface of your eye is consistently covered by a thin tear film that lubricates your eyes, protects them against infection, and keeps them clean. This thin film is made from a mixture of mucus, proteins, oils, water, and salts that are produced by the glands and cells around your eye, and dry eye syndrome can occur if the process of tear production is somehow disrupted or affected.
The Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome
When dry eye disease (otherwise called keratoconjunctivitis sicca) occurs, the eyes often feel inflamed, irritated, and dried out, but there are various symptoms that you should look out for, including:
- Blurred vision which can improve with blinking
- Feeling of grittiness, soreness, or dryness
- Light sensitivity
- Red, swollen eyes
The Factors that May Cause Dry Eye SyndromeThere are many different reasons why dry eye syndrome can occur due to an issue with the complex tear production process, and as of yet a single cause has not been identified. Experts, such as the doctors at Nevada Eye and Ear, explain that dry eye can be caused by an imbalance in the way that tears are produced in the eye, as well as the tear film in the eye drying out due to environmental conditions such as heat and air conditioning. Other factors that may contribute to dry eye syndrome include:
- Wearing contact lenses regularly
- The natural aging process (particularly throughout menopause for women)
- Underlying medical issues such as inflammation of the eyelids (blepharitis)
- Underlying diseases that have an impact on the body’s ability to produce tears such asrheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, and vascular collagen diseases.
Factors that Increase Your RiskThere are some factors that can increase the chances of suffering from dry eye syndrome, including: Hormone changes in the body: As hormones stimulate the production of tears, changes in the levels of hormones your body receives can increase the risk of dry eye syndrome. This is most common in women experiencing pregnancy, the menopause or taking the contraceptive pill. Environmental Activities: Some environmental features such as wind, dry climate, high altitude, and excess sun can have a drying effect on your eyes, but there are also some activities which can contribute. Reading, working regularly on a computer, or writing can increase the risk because you are likely to blink less frequently, meaning the film in your eye drains more quickly than usual. Laser Eye Surgery: If you have had laser eye surgery, you may find that you suffer with dry eyes for a period of weeks after the surgery. Usually, the symptoms will begin to dissipate by themselves, but if they do continue, you should speak to a doctor immediately. Age: Dry eye syndrome occurs more often in older people because tears are less frequently produced as we begin to age, and our eyelids become less reliable when it comes to spreading tears over the eyes. Medical Conditions: Various medical conditions contribute to the increased changes of suffering from dry eye syndrome or disease, including:
- Contact dermatitis
- Allergic conjunctivitis
- Bell’s Palsy