You might be a patient with dry eyes and not even realize it yet. Identifying the symptoms and effects of this disorder is the first step toward getting back to enjoying your normal daily activities.
Why Are Your Eyes Dry?
Dry eyes affect around 12 million Americans. They are the result of either not producing enough tears or of poor tear quality. Potential causes are factors that either lower tear production, such as aging, or increase tear evaporation, such as not blinking often enough while working at a computer. An imbalance in tear composition is also a cause.
Dry eye disease tends to occur in both eyes and is sometimes the result of an underlying medical disorder like rosacea. More than half of patients who suffer from this condition are female.
Effects of Dry Eyes
Most patients realize they have a problem because of the discomfort they experience. Effects of this disorder can be both short- and long-term. Short-term effects include:
Burning or stinging in an affected eye
A gritty feeling, as though a foreign object is stuck in the eye
Excess tearing followed by dry periods
Stringy eye discharge
Eye redness and pain
Sensation of eyelid heaviness
Contact lenses that are uncomfortable
Trouble crying when stressed
Lowered tolerance for activities that require continual focused use of the eyes, such as reading
Dry eye disease often progresses when untreated. These are the major potential long-term effects when this happens:
Periodic eye infections. One major duty of tears is protecting the eye’s surface from infections. Lacking an adequate tear supply, patients have a higher risk of developing them.
Eye surface damage. Dry eye disease can progress to a severe stage without treatment. This sometimes results in inflammation of the eye, abrasion of the surface of the cornea, corneal ulcers, and vision issues.
Lower quality of life. Patients with dry eyes sometimes have a hard time performing even usual daily tasks like reading. Many face lifestyle restrictions due to trouble driving at night, light sensitivity, or so much discomfort that it is difficult to concentrate.
Dry Eye Solutions
Fortunately, physicians have a number of options for helping patients with dry eyes. They include using prescription drugs to reduce inflammation, artificial tears, tear-stimulating drugs, or other medications. Other alternatives are removable plugs for tear ducts, special contact lenses, unblocking oil glands, and eyelid massage and light therapy. Patients can also help themselves with a number of lifestyle changes such as repositioning a computer monitor or adding moisture to the air.: