What Is Dry Eye Syndrome? (DES)
Dry eye syndrome happens when there’s an imbalance between how quickly tears are produced and the rate at which the tears dry up or drain from the eye. People with dry eyes either do not produce enough tears or their tears are of poor quality. This can quickly result n some uncomfortable symptoms, including itching, burning, redness, watery eyes, excessive tearing—and even eye pain. Dry eye syndrome can also increase your risk for more serious eye problems like corneal abrasions and corneal ulcers.
Without treatment or proper medication, DES can worsen over time.
What Causes Dry Eyes?
While over 80% of dry eye cases are due to blocked oil glands in the eyelids — a condition called meibomian gland dysfunction or evaporative dry eye — a number of other factors can make it more likely you’ll experience symptoms. These include:
Gender – Women are statistically more likely to experience dry eye than men. This is often caused by hormonal changes, such as through pregnancy, contraceptives, or menopause.
Age – Those over 50 years of age are at higher risk.
Weather and Environment – dry climates and dry weather can evaporate the tears. When the weather is really hot or cold, or very windy, dry eye cases go up. Home and car heaters, air conditioners, fans and hair dryers also cause tears to evaporate.
Medication – antidepressants, decongestants and blood pressure medications all may have side effects that dry out your eyes.
Auto-immune disorders – Sjogren’s disease and arthritis, among others.
How Do I Know If I Have Dry Eye Syndrome?
Do any of these symptoms seem familiar?
- Eyes that feel tired or dry
- Increased light sensitivity
- Regularly using eye drops
- Excessive tearing and discharge
- Stinging, gritty, or itchy-feeling eyes
- Discomfort that worsens as the day progresses
If so, you may have dry eye syndrome. Take our dry eye quiz to find out!
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Do You Have More Questions About Dry Eyes? | FAQ
Is there a cure for dry eye syndrome?
Unfortunately, there is no cure that permanently does away with dry eye syndrome. There are, however, many effective ways to prevent or treat symptoms. Make an appointment today with our trusted optometrists in The Woodlands for evaluation and customized treatment options.
What is the main cause of dry eye syndrome?
Dry eye syndrome commonly occurs when your eyes fail to produce enough tears or the tears your eyes produce don’t contain the right stuff to keep the eyes hydrated. Our optometrists will perform tests as part of a comprehensive eye exam to determine what is causing your dry eyes, and how to treat the symptoms.
How do I prevent dry eye symptoms?
Many factors including allergies, hormones and the weather can cause dry eye symptoms such as dry, red, itchy and gritty-feeling eyes. Tips to prevent these symptoms include:
- Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help produce oils in your tears that slow evaporation.
- Following the ”20-20-20 rule” when working on computers or screens. This means looking away from the screen every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, at something at least 20 feet away, to give your eyes a break from the strain of working on digital screens.
- Position air vents, fans and heaters so that they don’t blow directly into your eyes, drying them out.
Can dry eye syndrome cause blindness?
Yes. In extreme circumstances, dry eyes can result in scratches on the eye that leaves scars on the cornea. This scarring can make it difficult for the eye to focus incoming light, obscuring vision. This may eventually result in permanent vision damage or blindness if not treated properly.