Dryness in the eyes is emerging as a prevalent complaint in an eye and contact lens clinic. It is observed that one in three patients are having a complaint of dryness in the eyes. The patient may not exactly complain of dryness but presents as a collection of signs and symptoms like redness, foreign body sensation, itching, burning and sometimes watering.
Our eyes are constantly bathed in tears produced by the tear glands located behind the outer 1/3rd of the upper lid. These tears keep the eyes moist for better comfort and clear vision. Also, they wash away any dust particles or foreign material from the eyes. The tears contain enzymes that keep the eye protected from any harmful bacteria. The tears formed flow from the upper outer part of the eyes to the inner corner of the eye and are eventually flushed out by the drainage channels having openings in at the inner corners of both the lids, into the nose.
The tear secretions could be basic, secreted normally, or reflex, secreted when the eye is irritated or when we cry.
Dryness can be classified as tear deficient dry eyes caused by the decreased formation of tears or as evaporative dry eyes caused by the poor quality of tears that evaporate quickly. Sometimes it could be both.
Causes of dryness in the eyes include the following:
Low humidity encountered in air-conditioned places, room heaters, climatic conditions in certain areas can evaporate your tears faster.
Improper blinking will not spread tears over the eye. This could be partial blinking or even less blinking, which happens when we concentrate like, e.g. reading a book or working on computers.
Dryness in the eyes is seen in diseases like Arthritis. Certain medicines like anti-allergy, high blood pressure, antidepressants birth control pills can cause dryness.
In ladies esp. elderly hormonal imbalances can cause reduced tear secretion and affect the chemical composition of tears. It is a common complaint during menopause.
Certain conditions like inflammation of eyelid margins can result in dryness in the eyes.
Contact lens users can be put to a lot of discomfort due to dryness in the eyes. The lenses do not feel comfortable in the eyes. Conversely, improper fitting of contact lenses and choosing the wrong materials can produce signs and symptoms of dryness in the eyes.
A trained clinician, an Optometrist or an Ophthalmologist can evaluate your eyes in detail using special tests to measure the tear secretion and rate of evaporation and find out the cause for dryness. Treatment could range from supplementing tears using simple artificial tears to more complex chemical formulations, which an Ophthalmologist can prescribe. Rarely the drainage channel openings are temporarily blocked using silicone plugs to increase the tear presence over the eyes. The lids are stitched at the outer corners to reduce tear evaporation in an extremely dry condition by reducing the eye-opening.
Contact lens users can benefit from an expert Optometrists consultation. He can help you alleviate the symptoms of dryness by selecting proper lens materials and/or by prescribing lens lubricants.
- Remember to blink frequently when working on a computer or reading a book.
- Computer monitor height should be below eye level to reduce exposed area of the eyes.
- Use humidifiers or have a simple water fountain on your desk for better comfort.
- Scratch your eyes lightly when they itch. Avoid vigorous scratching.
- Reduce oily foods in the diet and increasing the water intake can help reduce dryness.
- Consume more Omega 3 fatty acids. These can be found in Flaxseeds and walnuts.
- Use good sunglass while going outdoors to protect your eyes from sun, wind
- Close fitting sunglasses protect from dust, and reduce evaporation of tears.
- All artificial tears cannot be used along with contact lenses. Check with your Optometrist.
- Inform your Optometrist if you are on any medicines esp. birth control pills before wearing contact lenses