Do you have dry eyes? Let us know in the comments.
In simple terms, dry eyes occur when your eyes don’t produce enough tears or the quality of tears produced is of poor quality. The eyes produce tears all the time, not just when you experience emotion. However, with dry eyes, the tear glands produce fewer tears in some cases and in other cases the tears that are produced break down very quickly, thus exposing the eye to periods of “drying” between blinks.
Let’s explain how it works!
In healthy eyes, a new layer of tears known as the tear film is produced each time you blink. In between blinks, this tear layer remains intact and ensures that your eyes remain totally moist and lubricated until you blink again, which then produces a new tear film and the process repeats. In this way, the eye is always lubricated and no possibility of drying of the cornea exists.
In cases of Dry Eyes, each time you blink the tear film is either insufficient (owing to too little tears being produced) or the constituents of the tear film makes it unstable so that it breaks down and exposes the cornea to drying before you are able to blink again and create a new tear film. In cases like this, as well as with other contributing factors that we will discuss in subsequent classes, you experience what is commonly called Dry Eyes.
Quick fact, tears are made up of water, fatty oils, protein, electrolytes, and substances to fight off bacteria. This combination helps keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear so that we can see properly.
Factors such as aging, computer use, your environment, health problems, and certain medications are associated with dry eyes. With regards to aging, your eyes can become drier later in life especially after the age of 50, however, this condition can still occur at any age!
Spending prolonged hours on the computer or digital devices is also a factor associated with dry eyes. When you are on these devices, you tend to focus more and blink less fully and frequently. Blinking less allows your tears to evaporate quicker, increasing your risk for developing dry eyes.
Another factor associated with dry eyes is your environment, both indoor and outdoor. Yes, the beastly cold air-condition unit in your office or even ceiling fans that viciously oscillates can decrease indoor humidity and/or accelerate tear evaporation, causing dry eyes. On the other hand, outdoor climates such as dusty/dry or windy conditions can contribute to dry eyes too. Before this pandemic, many persons were traveling, however, the air in an airplane is quite dry and can also be the reason many persons have dry eyes.
Lastly, if you have health problems such as diabetes, lupus, arthritis, or take medications such as blood-pressure prescriptions, birth control or anti-depressants, these can all contribute to Dry Eyes.
There are many symptoms related to dry eyes; ranging from heavy/ sore eyes to a stinging/ burning or scratchy sensation in your eyes. If you ever felt like you had grit or some other material in your eye, that’s called a foreign body sensation, which is a symptom of this condition. Have you experienced this? Let us know in the comments.
Symptoms of dry eyes also include; eye redness, sensitivity to light, difficulty wearing contact lenses, difficulty seeing while driving at night, and blurred or fatigued vision. The list also includes watery eyes! Watery eyes are the body’s response to irritation of the eyes.
It may sound strange that watery eyes are a symptom of dry eyes but this happens because dryness on the eye‘s surface will sometimes over-stimulate the production of the watery component of your tears. This over-stimulation is a protective mechanism known as “reflex tearing” and doesn’t stay long enough to correct the actual condition.
A few ways you can alleviate dry eyes are by using artificial tears/lubricating eye drops, as they lubricate the eyes and help maintain moisture on the outer surface of your eyes (Cornea) . Lubricating eye drops can make a huge difference by reducing the grittiness or scratchy sensation that occurs with dry eyes! Another thing you can do is use a warm compress, the heat from the compress can help the glands that produce tears (Lacrimal Gland) to work better.
You can also try blinking more frequently, and taking more frequent breaks from the computer. Many persons spend lots of time on the computer for both work and leisure, a good rule of thumb to follow is to look away from your screen at least every 20 minutes and look at something that is at least 20 feet from your eyes for at least 20 seconds. Your eyes will thank you!
The last thing that you can do to alleviate dry eyes is to gently wash your eyelids to remove any bacteria that may cause your glands to be irritated. The most important thing here is to ensure that your hands are clean! You do not want to introduce more bacteria to your eyes when the goal is to reduce the bacteria. Wash your eyelids by gently applying a washcloth to your lids for about 20 seconds, then washing your lashes and lids with pre-moistened eyelid wipes that are available at many drugstores.
A few ways to prevent dry eyes are to avoid air such as fans , air-condition and hairdryers from blowing directly in your eye. Remember to use eye drops regularly as recommended to keep your eyes lubricated, do this even when your eyes feel fine. Prevention is always better than cure!
If you’re on the computer, reading, sewing, painting, or simply doing a task that requires visual concentration, remember to take intermittent breaks. Try blinking more frequently for a few seconds to help spread the tears evenly throughout your eyes and remember to do this as often as you can. We also recommend that you close your eyes for a few minutes daily to help stimulate tear production. Try it, it works!
If you use the computer quite frequently, ensure you position your screen below eye level, so you won’t have to open your eyes as wide to view the screen. This may help slow the evaporation of your tears between eye blinks!
Another way to prevent dry eyes is to be aware of your environment! It’s quite rainy these days but some days are so dry and sunny. When spending time in dry/dusty/windy environments consider a good pair of sunglasses or protective eyewear which will help reduce tear evaporation as well as reduce duty and wind from directly reaching your eyes.
An important point in preventing dry eyes is to reduce and avoid smoke. If you smoke, speak with your doctor about a personalized strategy to help you to quit. This is very important since smoke can worsen dry eye symptoms.
There are more advanced ways to deal with severe cases of dry eyes but we have covered the basic in this class and hope that the information shared was of some value to you.