Dry Eyes: What Causes Dry Eyes and How to Treat Dry Eyes
Healthy eyes are hydrated eyes. The eye itself produces its own tears essential to ocular health, however more and more Canadians are experiencing symptoms of dry eyes. To avoid as much as possible such symptoms, some steps can be taken to alleviate ocular dryness.
Why do eyes get dry?
In general, the eyes get dryer when the lachrymal glands stop functioning properly, therefore not producing enough tears to hydrate the eyes. This is referred to as “aqueous” dryness. Optometrists in general note more cases of “mix” eye dryness or “evaporative” eye dryness due to the malfunction of the Tarsal glands, located along the edge of the eyelids, that contribute to the quality and integrity of the lachrymal film. According to optometrists, 15% of people 60 years old and over are experiencing dry eyes. This can be linked to the hormonal changes linked to menopause and andropause.
Our environment can also be an important cause of ocular dryness: pollution, drier air or air conditioning, cigarette smoke, our longer hours in front of the computer, wind or altitude, all these are factors than can contribute to dry eyes especially if more than one is present. Some medication can also alter the hydration of the eyes: anti-depressant/anxiety, hormonal treatments, sleeping pills. Finally, cannabis and tobacco can also be responsible for ocular dryness.
Ocular Dryness Symptoms
Symptoms of ocular dryness are numerous and can be cumulative:
Light sensitivity, sensitivity to wind, to smoke
Sensation of glued eyelids upon waking, general discomfort in the morning
Itchiness, burning sensation
Absence of tears linked to strong emotions or while peeling onions
Too much tears when exposed to wind, cold, while reading
General eye fatigue
Difficulty tolerating contact lenses
Five Steps to Alleviate/Avoid Eye Dryness
There are different ways to try and prevent eye dryness, whether it is a change of eating habits or the use of artificial tears, but either way, hydration of your eyes is primary:
Hydrate yourself properly: an intake of1.5 to 2 litres of water daily is recommended
Protect your eyes against sunshine and wind: wear sunglasses or protective eyewear when practicing an activity such as cycling, long distance running, activities in higher altitude i.e. skying.
Circulate the air in your house properly and regularly; beware of heaters and air conditioning that tend to dry the air.
Take regular pauses from continuing computer work; at least every half hour, sit back for a few minutes. Try to remember to blink often and use lenses that protect against “blue light”.
Consume foods that have a high Omega -3 and vitamin A content; vitamin A helps to stabilise the cellular membrane of the conjunctive and the cornea, a must for a good coverage of the lachrymal film over your eyes.