The number of people suffering with dry, irritated eyes has reached epidemic proportions. Traditionally, this disease was something mostly seen in older patients – but not anymore!
Kids, teenagers, and young adults are now also being affected. What are we doing wrong? This post gives an overview of some of the most common causes of dry eyes:
1. Computer and phone use
Have you ever thought about how many hours you spend in front of a screen?Most people work in front of a computer at work, but forget to add up time spent on phones and other screens outside of the office. Often the total can be 10 or more hours per day. The human eye was definitely not designed for this. Looking at screens reduces the frequency of blinking, which means that the eyes are open and exposed to the air more often. The quality of your blink is also reduced, leading to tear gland dysfunction and rapid tear evaporation.
2. Air conditioning and heating
Eyes can often flare up in very dry conditions, when air conditioning or heating is used in the office or at home. Air travel can be particularly bad, as the eyes are hit with the double-whammy of air conditioning and staring at screens for hours on end.
3. Using the wrong eye drops
There is a huge variety of eye drops in the pharmacy these days, which just goes to show how much of a problem this eye disease has become. It also makes choosing an eye drop very difficult. Many of the eye drops come in bottles with preservatives in order to increase their shelf life. Unfortunately, the preservatives are counter-productive because they usually make your eyes worse. Anti red-eye drops are particularly bad – not only do they contain preservatives, but they have are very addictive because they make the redness worse than before once the drop is stopped.
4. Over-use of eye drops
Overusing eye drops (more than 3 or 4 times a day) can actually make your symptoms worse and increase dependence on the drops. No eye drop is a perfect replacement for the eyes’ own natural tears.
5. Skincare products & makeup
Some skincare products contain ingredients that are particularly bad for the eyes. Any cream that is applied on the eyelids ends up seeping into the eyes over the course of the day or night. This causes irritation on the eye surface and can block the tear glands. Excessive makeup, especially powdery makeup, around the eyes can also block the tear glands and cause dryness. Putting eyeliner on the inner eyelid margin – or waterline – is a direct blockage to the oil-producing tear glands which help keep eyes lubricated.
6. Using toxic contact lens solutions
Unfortunately, there are many contact lens solutions sold in the pharmacy that are a source of irritation for eyes. This is mainly due to the strong preservatives used which can be absorbed into the contact lens material and then release into the eye throughout the day. These can be toxic to the eye surface, and over time can damage the tear glands.
7. Vision correction eye surgery
LASIK and other types of eye surgery can bring on or exacerbate symptoms of dry eye. This is usually temporary, but not always. Many people choose to have laser eye surgery because they can no longer tolerate contact lenses due to their symptoms of dryness and irritation. Unfortunately, some of them discover that their eyes get even more dry following the surgery. This disorder should definitely be treated before undergoing any eye surgery.
The typical western diet contains nowhere near enough omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3 helps maintain a high-quality tear film and reduce inflammation on the eye and throughout the body.
Watery tear production is regulated by a gland above the eyes called the lacrimal gland. The lacrimal gland is controlled by hormones. Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during menopause, can thus influence how many tears this gland produces.
The ageing process causes a number of effects on the body that can influence the hydration state of your eyes. Loss of skin tone can mean the eye lids don’t sit flush against your eye. Tear production can decrease and oil secretions can change, all leading to an increase in symptoms.
11. Autoimmune diseases
If you suffer from an autoimmune disorder such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus or Sjogrens Syndrome, you are likely to have ocular symptoms of dryness associated with it.
12. Skin conditions
Acne rosacea can be closely linked to ocular rosacea, a condition that causes ocular redness and symptoms of irritation and dryness.
Certain medications such as Roaccutane, anti-histamines and HRT, are well known for their drying effects on the eyes.