At some point in our lives, we all experience a bit of eye dryness that could include discomfort, blurry vision, or the need to rub them. However for millions of people, these feelings never go away. In fact, it’s estimated that 4.88 million Americans over the age of 50 suffer from regular eye dryness. Of those,1.68 million are men and more than 3 million women deal with frustrating symptoms frequently.
Many times, people aren’t even aware that their eye concerns are associated with a chronic condition, as dry eye syndrome sometimes seems like something to simply “deal with.” As the saying goes, knowledge is power, so let’s uncover more information about dry eye syndrome.
What Qualifies As Dry Eyes?
As mentioned, the occasional instance of dry eye discomfort can be normal, but for people who are diagnosed with dry eye syndrome, there’s an actual physiological reason. Dry eye syndrome is caused when the body’s natural method of producing tears is disrupted. It can be classified as a decrease in tear production, the instance of tears evaporating before they adequately lubricate the eye, or a change in the composition of the tears themselves.
Tears are made up of more than 1500 various proteins along with water, oils, and more and work to keep the eye comfortable and protected. There are actually three different layers of tears that lubricate a healthy eye, and when any one of these three experiences changes, chronic dry eye syndrome can occur.
Dry Eye Causes
How can you ensure that you’re not one of the nearly 5 million people who are affected by dry eye syndrome? While this condition can’t necessarily be avoided, there are specific risk factors that can be considered, including:
- Having diabetes
- Long-term use of contact lenses
- Certain medication
- Auto-immune diseases
- Seasonal allergies
- Windy or smoky environments
Living With Dry Eye Syndrome
Experiencing eye discomfort, including light sensitivity, blurry vision, or red and swollen eyelids, can be difficult to manage, but before anything else, it’s important to get an official diagnosis from your ophthalmologist. Once it’s been determined that you do in fact have dry eye syndrome and are not reacting to a specific irritant, you can begin treatment to better manage your symptoms.
Sometimes, treating dry eye syndrome is as easy as changing the medications you’re on or sleeping with a humidifier at night to increase moisture in the air. Other options include using artificial tears any time that you start to feel dryness occur, and for more severe cases, medication can be prescribed.
Although there aren’t any true cures for dry eye syndrome, doctors recommend taking an omega-3 fatty acid supplement to help increase tear production. Some dietary changes can also help, however there aren’t any tried and true ways to prevent dry eye syndrome from developing.
If you experience unusual symptoms with your eyes that don’t seem to be related to visual issues, you might have dry eyes. Contact your ophthalmologist today to evaluate your tear production and uncover ways to restore moisture and comfort to your eyes every day.