Dry eye syndrome is a common eye disease. It affects 5–34% of people to some degree depending on the population.
Among older people it affects up to 70% in China it affects about 17% of people.
It is also called “Keratoconjunctivitis sicca”. The phrase “keratoconjunctivitis sicca” means “dryness of the cornea and conjunctiva” in the Latin language.
Keratoconjunctivitis sicca is relatively common within the United States, especially so in older patients.
Specifically, the persons most likely to be affected by dry eyes are those aged 40 or older. 10–20% of adults experience Keratoconjunctivitis sicca.
While persons with autoimmune diseases have a high likelihood of having dry eyes, most persons with dry eyes do not have an autoimmune disease.
In addition, milder forms of keratoconjunctivitis sicca also are more common in women.This is partly because hormonal changes, such as those that occur in pregnancy, menstruation, and menopause, can decrease tear production.
Note:- In areas of the world where malnutrition is common, vitamin A deficiency is a common cause. That’s why this is rare in the United States and other developed countries and it is mainly in the developing countries.
What is dry eyes
Dry eye happens when your eyes don’t make enough tears to stay wet, or when your tears don’t work correctly. This can make your eyes feel uncomfortable, and in some cases it can also cause vision problems.If severe dry eye isn’t treated, it can sometimes damage your cornea, the clear outer layer at the front of your eye. Dry eye is a common and often chronic problem, particularly in older adults. With each blink of the eyelids, tears spread across the front surface of the eye, known as the cornea. Tears provide lubrication, reduce the risk of eye infection, wash away foreign matter in the eye and keep the surface of the eyes smooth and clear. Excess tears in the eyes flow into small drainage ducts in the inner corners of the eyelids, which drain into the back of the nose. Dry eyes can occur when tear production and drainage is not in balance.
Dry eye is common it affects millions of Americans every year. The good news is that if you have dry eye, there are lots of things you can do to keep your eyes healthy and stay comfortable.
“Dry eyes are a chronic lack of lubrication and moisture on the surface of the eye”
Importance of tears
Tears are necessary for maintaining the health of the front surface of the eye and for providing clear vision.
Eyes may occur if you don’t produce enough tears or if you produce poor-quality tears. This tear instability leads to inflammation and damage of the eye’s surface.
Tears can be inadequate and unstable for many reasons.
Who have chances to get dry eyes?
Anyone can get dry eye, but you might be more likely to have dry eye if you;-
- Are age 50 or older
- Are female
- Wear contact lenses
- Don’t get enough vitamin A (found in foods like carrots, broccoli, and liver) or omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish, walnuts, and vegetable oils)
- Have certain autoimmune conditions, like lupus or Sjögren syndrome
Symptoms of dry eyes
A patient with dry eye syndrome may experience a range of symptoms, some of which are mentioned below;-
- People with this problem may experience irritation in eyes area.
- People with dry eyes may experience gritty eyes
- People with this problem may experience scratchy eyes.
- Burning sensation in the eyes.
- A feeling of something in their eyes.
- Excessive water secretion from the eyes
- Blurred vision especially towards the end of the day
- Light Sensitivity
- Stringy mucus near the eye
- A feeling like sand in the eye
- eye sensitivity to smoke or wind
- difficulty keeping the eyes open
- eye fatigue after reading, even for a short time
- discomfort when wearing contact lenses
- eyelids sticking together when waking up
Causes of dry eyes
Dry eyes are caused by a variety of reasons that disrupt the healthy tear film. Your tear film has three layers: fatty oils, aqueous fluid and mucus. This combination normally keeps the surface of your eyes lubricated, smooth and clear. Problems with any of these layers can make your eyes dry.
Reasons for tear film dysfunction are many, including hormone changes, autoimmune disease, inflamed eyelid glands or allergic eye disease. For some people, the cause of dry eyes is decreased tear production or increased tear evaporation.
• Computer use – When working at a computer or using a smartphone or other portable digital device, we tend to blink our eyes less fully and less frequently. This leads to greater tear evaporation and increased risk of dry eye symptoms.
• Contact lenses:- It can be difficult to determine how much worse contact lenses can make dry eye problems. But dry eyes are a primary reason why people stop wearing contacts.
•Aging:- Dry eye syndrome can occur at any age, but it becomes more common as you age, especially after age 50.
• Menopause:- Post-menopausal women are at greater risk of dry eyes than men of the same age.
• Other health conditions:- Certain diseases such as diabetes, thyroid-associated conditions, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome can contribute to dry eye problems.
Mainly auto- immune diseases are responsible for dry eyes.
• Certain medications:- Many prescription and nonprescription medicines increase the risk of dry eye symptoms, including antihistamines, antidepressants, certain blood pressure memedications.
Such as;- beta-blockers or diuretics and birth control pills.
• LASIK:- LASIK and other corneal refractive surgery can sometimes cause dry eyes. In most cases, however, dry eye discomfort after LASIK is temporary and resolves within a few weeks of the procedure. If you have dry eyes prior to LASIK, your eye doctor may recommend dry eye treatment before your procedure to insure your best LASIK results.
• Wearing a mask:- Many masks, such as those worn to protect against the spread of COVID-19, can dry the eyes by forcing air out the top of the mask and over the surface of the eye. Wearing glasses with a mask can direct the air over the eyes even more.
• Allergies:- Allergies can cause dry eyes, and as noted above, taking antihistamines to relieve allergies can also cause dry eyes.
• Eyelid problems:- Incomplete closure of the eyelids when blinking or sleeping can cause severe dry eyes
It is also known as “Lagophthalmos”.
Severe dryness can lead to a corneal ulcer if left untreated. Lagophthalmos has many causes, including natural aging, eye infections and nerve damage from trauma.
Tips to prevent dry eyes
You can take the following steps to reduce symptoms of dry eyes;-
- Remember to blink regularly when reading or staring at a computer screen for long periods of time.
- Increase the humidity in the air at work and at home.
- Wear sunglasses outdoors, particularly those with wraparound frames, to reduce exposure to drying winds and the sun.
- Nutritional supplements containing essential fatty acids may help decrease dry eye symptoms in some people. Ask your doctor if taking dietary supplements could help your dry eye problems.
- Avoiding becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of water (8 to 10 glasses) each day
- Avoid air getting blown in your eyes by directing car heaters away from your face.
- Avoid environments that are drier than normal, such as deserts, airplanes, and places at high altitudes.
Home remedies for Dry Eyes
There is no home remedy for dry eye, but there are the following tips that can reduce the chances of dry eyes;-
- Eat fish:- Simple dietary changes can mitigate the impact of dry eye. For one, incorporating more oily fish into your diet can help. These include menu times such as;-
- Increase your omega-3 intake:- A study of 32,000 women published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that those who had the highest dietary intake of omega-3 from fish had a 17 percent lower risk of dry eye compared with those who ate little or no seafood.
That said, a 2018 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine called the effectiveness of omega-3s into question, finding it no more helpful than an olive oil placebo.
A lack of essential fatty acids in your diet can cause dry eyes.
Studies show eating omega-3 fatty acids may stimulate tear production and create quality tears that lubricate your eyes more effectively.
Many people get relief by supplementing their diet with omega-3 fatty acids found naturally effective in dry eyes.
There are following source of omega-3 fatty acids;-
You can also take fish oil capsules or other omega-3 supplements.
- Coconut oil:- This is a great rewetting agent for dry eyes because it creates a protective layer over the tear film layers to reduce evaporation.
It can also reduce inflammation that irritates your eyes.
Way to use coconut oil:- Simply soak a cotton ball in coconut oil and place it directly on your closed eyelid. You can do this several times a day until you dry eyes feel better.
- Increase intake of coffee and caffeine consumption:- Research has shown that caffeine may ease dry eyes by increasing production in the tear glands.
You do have to be careful if you are sensitive to caffeine, because too much can make you jittery and cause insomnia.
But if you tolerate caffeine well, increase your intake a bit to see if it helps your dry eyes.
Participants in the study consumed capsules with 200 mg to 600 mg of caffeine, depending on their weight. That’s the equivalent of 2 to 6 cups of coffee.
- Use humidifier:- If a topical remedy doesn’t help, you may need to change your environment. Stay away from cigarette or cigar smoke, use a humidifier in the winter and avoid sitting directly in front of fans and air conditioners.
- Wear sunglasses:- When you’re outdoors, especially on windy days, wear wraparound sunglasses to protect the fronts and sides of your eyes. This will keep them from drying out or coming into contact with debris.