About 16 million Americans suffer from dry eye and the uncomfortable symptoms it causes. But dry eye isn’t just uncomfortable — it can also increase your risk of corneal damage and vision loss, so treating it should be a priority.
With offices in Bellmore, Great Neck, and Huntington, New York, Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts, offers patient-centered therapies for dry eye to relieve symptoms and protect your eyes — and vision. Here’s what our team wants you to know about dry eyes and some of the most common causes.
Quick facts about dry eye
Your eyes depend on your tears to stay moist and free of irritants and debris. If you have dry eyes, your tears aren’t doing their job, leaving you much more vulnerable.
Typically, dry eye happens because your eyes don’t make enough tears, the tears they make are of poor quality, or the tears aren’t distributed evenly over the eye surface.
You don’t make enough tears
Your eyes depend on a steady flow of tears to provide protection and lubrication. If your tear ducts don’t produce enough tears, you can quickly develop dry eye.
Your tears are of poor quality
Tears are a combination of water, oil, and mucus. If that combination is unbalanced, your tears may not be able to moisturize your eyes properly, or the tears may evaporate too quickly, leaving your eyes feeling dry and irritated.
Your tears aren’t distributed optimally
Tears are released by your tear glands and removed from your eye through ducts or drains. Your eyelids work together to keep your tears on your eye surface and distribute them evenly every time you blink. If any of these components are damaged, distribution suffers, and your eyes dry out.
Common causes of chronic dry eye
Dry eyes can affect anyone, but they tend to occur more often among women. Staring at computer screens for long periods and wearing contact lenses can increase your risk of temporary dry eye, but chronic dry eye is usually associated with other issues.
Aging is one of the most common causes of dry eye. As we age, our bodies produce fewer tears, and the quality of tears can also be compromised. Researchers are still studying the link between aging and dry eyes, but they believe multiple factors play a role, including increased inflammation and declining hormone levels, especially among women.
Previous eye surgery
Some eye surgeries are associated with dry eye, including cataract surgery and LASIK. In most cases, these effects are temporary, but at other times, the effect can be long-lasting.
Several medications can cause dry eye, including prescription and over-the-counter products. Allergy medicines, blood pressure medicines, antidepressants, birth control products, hormone therapy medicines, acne medications, decongestants, and medicines used to treat Parkinson’s disease can all cause dry eye symptoms.
Underlying medical problems
Some medical problems can cause dry eye as a symptom or “side effect.” That includes thyroid disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and eye allergies. Eyelid problems or diseases affecting the tear glands are other possible medical causes of dry eye.
Relief for dry eyes
Before prescribing any treatment for dry eyes, we perform a comprehensive eye exam and review your medical history to look for possible causes. Once we determine why you have dry eye symptoms, we can tailor a treatment plan for maximum effectiveness.
Depending on what’s causing your symptoms and whether they’re temporary or chronic, your treatment plan might include:
- Lifestyle changes, like frequent eye breaks or blinking exercises
- Use of a humidifier in dry environments
- Artificial tears or moisturizing ointment for added lubrication
- LipiFlow®, a therapy using heat and massage to unblock tear glands
- Tear duct plugs to prevent tears from draining too quickly
- Eyelid surgery to correct problems interfering with tear distribution
If you have an underlying medical condition contributing to your dry eye problems, we may recommend talking to your primary care doctor to make sure that condition is well managed.
Don’t ignore your dry eyes
While eye drops can provide some relief for dry eye symptoms, it’s important to get to the root cause of your dry eye rather than just mask its symptoms.
To learn what’s causing your dry eye symptoms and how we can help you manage them, request an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Long Island Ophthalmic Concepts today.