Eye Center of Texas Blog

Dry Eye Syndrome

Your quick guide to dry eye causes, symptoms, risk factors, and treatment

Dry eye syndrome, also called “dry eyes,” is a common condition caused by a lack of adequate moisture in your eyes. According to the National Women’s Health Resource Center, the likelihood of experiencing dry eyes increases with age, and dry eyes affect nearly twice as many women as men.

Is it dangerous to have dry eyes? While it may be easy to overlook the burning and itching caused by dry eye syndrome, if left untreated, dry eyes can eventually lead to great discomfort. In extreme cases, dry eyes may cause vision loss due to a scratched and/or scarred cornea (For more information, read our blog post to discover “What are the symptoms of a scratched cornea?)

Learn more about what causes dry eye syndrome, how to identify dry eye symptoms and risk factors, and what treatment options are available.

What causes eye dryness?

Tears are meant for more than crying; they also help keep your eyes healthy and lubricated. If your eyes aren’t be moisturized well enough by your tears for whatever reason, your likelihood of having dry eyes increases significantly. Dry eyes are most frequently the result of three different types of tear-related issues:

  • Decrease in tear production
  • Excessive tear evaporation
  • Variance in a patient’s normal tear composition.

Decreased tear production causes and risk factors

Age is the most frequent contributor to decreased tear production. Age-related decrease in tear production typically begins after age 50. But what does our age have to do with our tears?

Our hormones continue to shift as we get older, including those that help regulate tear production. Women, who have a higher susceptibility to dry eye syndrome, also undergo more hormonal shifts than men (during both pregnancy and menopause). These shifts in hormones can cause a decrease in tear production.

Other risk factors for decreased production of tears include:

  • Health conditions
    • Diabetes
    • Autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, rosacea, Sjӧgren’s syndrome. (These disorders can target the surface the eye, causing inflammation and dry eyes.)
    • Vitamin A deficiency
    • Thyroid disorders
  • Medications
    • Birth control and acne medication
    • Antihistamines and decongestants
    • Depression and anxiety medications
    • Diuretics and beta-blockers
    • Sleeping pills
    • Medications for Parkinson’s disease
  • Damaged tear glands
  • Laser eye surgery such as LASIK, typically a temporary side effect. Read our posts about contacts after LASIK and dry eyes and LASIK eye drops for more information.

Excessive tear evaporation causes and risk factors

The culprits by excessive tear evaporation are often either the condition of the air in your environment or a decrease in your regular amount of blinking due to concentration. Dry air, smoke-filled air, or high winds can all contribute to dry eyes, as can spending extended periods at the computer, behind the wheel, or with your nose in a book, during which you are less likely to blink.

Read our posts on eye damage from cell phone use and avoiding eye strain for more information on issues regarding dry eyes and blinking.

Other risk factors for decreased production of tears include:

  • Overwearing your contact lenses
  • Air conditioning and fans which, like wind, can decrease humidity and worsen symptoms.
  • Ectropion (out-turning of the eyelids) or entropion (in-turning of the lids)

Causes and risk factors for a disparity in average tear composition

Tears are not made of water alone. In fact, tears are comprised of three main elements — water, oil, and mucus. If your tears are missing any one of these elements, the surface of the eye will likely not receive enough moisture, which in turn can cause dry eyes. The risk factors and causes of inadequate tears often go hand in hand.

Risk factors for inadequate ears include:

 

  • Clogging or blocking meibomian glands (also called tarsal glands), oil glands found on the rim of the eyelid
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Overwearing your contact lenses
  • Being older than 50
  • Being a woman

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome

The symptoms of dry eye syndrome vary widely and differ from person to person. For some, these symptoms can remain unpronounced (and easy to ignore) for some time. Neglecting to seek treatment, however, is typically unwise. When it comes to taking care of your eyes and your vision, it’s almost always better to go get your eyes checked — to be safe rather than sorry.

Common symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Itching, burning, scratching, and stinging sensations
  • Light sensitivity
  • Redness (typically blepharitis, a type of eye inflammation)
  • Excessively watery eyes
  • Eye discomfort and/or intermittent eye pain
  • The sensation of having a foreign body in the eye
  • Blurry vision or fluctuating vision capacity
  • Difficulty wearing contact lenses
  • Difficulty driving at night

Dry eye syndrome treatment

How do you get rid of dry eyes? Luckily, there are many, many treatment options for dry eye syndrome. Even if your dry eyes don’t respond to simple home remedies for dry eyes such as using a humidifier (to add moisture to the air) or taking breaks from your screen, you have plenty of treatment alternatives to choose from.

The type of treatment you choose will depend on the frequency and severity of your dry eye syndrome. No eyes are the same (dry or otherwise) so it’s smart to consult with your doctor about which type of treatment will be best for your eyes.

Treatments for dry eye syndrome include:

  • Artificial tears: Artificial tears, generally available without a prescription, can provide temporary relief from dry eye syndrome. Artificial tears are adequate for mild dry eyes, but if symptoms are not relieved with artificial tears alone, more treatment may be necessary.  
  • Restasis or Xiidra: In addition to artificial tears, your eye care professional might recommend the daily use of a prescription drop, such as Restasis or Xiidra. These medications reduce the inflammation associated with dry eye syndrome and help your eye produce more natural tears. Symptom relief with these medications is not immediate; it may take up to three months for you to notice improvement.
  • Punctal plugs: Punctal plugs (also called punctum plugs, lacrimal plugs, or tear duct plugs) are small devices that can be inserted into your tear ducts, helping tears stay on the surface of your eye longer periods of time. A punctal plug procedure can be completed in-office.
  • Supplements: Omega-3 supplements have historically been recommended to help with dry eye symptoms. There is, however, controversy over their efficacy.
  • Eyelid hygiene: Keeping the eyelids clean and healthy can help reduce eye inflammation. Many eye care professionals recommend warm compresses and lid scrubs for at-home eye maintenance.
  • BlephEx: BlephEx is a quick in-office procedure that cleans they eyelids and eyelashes.
  • LipiFlow: LipiFlow is another simple in-office procedure that clears clogged meibomian glands (the oil glands found on the rims of your eyelids).
  • True Tear: True Tear is new device designed to stimulate natural tear production. Your own tears are released through simple and painless stimulation of the nerves in the nose. This treatment is a great option for patients who prefer to reduce their intake of medications or their use of eyedrops.
  • Autologous Serum Tears: These eye drops are made from your own blood serum and can be an ideal option for those who have severe dry eye that doesn’t respond to other treatment.
  • Specialty contact lenses: These specially designed contact lenses cover the eye and keep it moist. Scleral lenses are a popular option for more severe forms of dry eye syndrome.

Say goodbye to dry eyes at Eye Center of Texas

Whether your dry eyes are a result of medications, a health condition, or simply age, it’s best not to ignore your symptoms. The sooner you address your dry eyes, the sooner you’ll find relief, and the less likely your dry eyes will become a greater nuisance to you in the future.

Dry eye syndrome may be a common condition, but it’s also a highly treatable condition. With experienced doctors and six convenient locations, Eye Center of Texas has everything you need to find relief from dry eyes in safety and comfort.

Call Eye Center of Texas at 713-797-1010, or schedule an appointment online today.

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Bellaire, TX 77401

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Webster, TX 77598

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Katy, TX 77450

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Conroe, TX 77304

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