If it constantly feels like something is in your eye, or if your eyes sting or burn, are red, sensitive to light, feel tired, or if you have blurred vision, then you may suffer from a condition known as dry eye. This is a common condition that can an affect just one or both eyes, and occurs when your tears (a mixture of water, fatty oils and mucus) are unable to provide your eyes with adequate lubrication.
There are many reasons why someone may have dry eyes. Some individuals simply don’t produce enough tears or have an imbalance in the makeup of their tears, while it can also be caused by certain medical conditions including thyroid disorders, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, Sjogren’s syndrome, and even vitamin A deficiency. Certain medications have also been known to decrease tear production and cause dry eye, including oral contraceptives (birth control), hormone replacement therapy drugs, decongestants, antihistamines, antidepressants, as well as medications used to treat acne and control Parkinson’s disease. If you’ve had laser eye surgery it’s also not uncommon to develop dry eye after the procedure, though it’s usually only temporary. You can also develop damage to your tear glands due to inflammation and radiation. Aging is also a contributing factor.
Whatever’s causing your dry eye, the most important thing is to get it treated and under control as soon as possible. If left untreated, dry eye can become dangerous, and aside from noticing some of the annoying symptoms associated with it, it can also cause permanent damage to your vision, such as irreversible blurred vision as well as sensitivity to light. Dry eye that goes untreated also makes you more susceptible to scratches and infections.
To treat dry eyes, there are some great remedies you can try while at home and even on the job. If you’re someone who’s on the computer a lot, watches a lot of TV, or are frequently on your smartphone or tablet, then you should be taking breaks away from those screens. If you wear contact lenses these can also irritate the eyes and cause them to become dry, so Dr. Ghahary suggests switching to regular eyeglasses. Getting enough sleep or having a lack of sleep can also disrupt your health in a number of ways, including the eyes, so make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep each night if possible. Water can also help keep the eyes lubricated, so try to drink at least six glasses per day. On sunny days, protect your eyes with sunglasses and a hat, and you should also avoid cigarette smoke.
If you have tried the aforementioned remedies and are still noticing symptoms of dry eye (either persisting or worsening), then you should consider trying an over-the-counter eye drop – also commonly referred to as artificial tears. Many of these drops are specifically designed to provide the eye with more moisture (and therefore more lubrication), and they can be found at most pharmacies. They’re also available in different forms, including as gel drops and ointments. It’s not uncommon to notice some slight stinging or burning when you first use these drops, as the drier your eyes are the more sensitive they will seem. However, if you’re finding that your eyes are too sensitive then you would probably benefit more from using a drop that is free of preservatives. If you’re unsure which type of eye drops to purchase, you can ask the pharmacist for help as they will be familiar with certain ingredients in the drops that could be causing you potential discomfort, as well as what ingredients would be more soothing to the eyes. In many cases, choosing an eye drop is just about personal preference.
Using artificial tear drops is often enough to help relieve symptoms. However, in some cases it may also be a matter of treating any underlying conditions. If you have any concerns about your health or think your eye problems may be directly related to your health, then you should book an appointment with your family physician as soon as possible. In addition, it may also be a good idea to book an appointment with your optometrist so that he or she can do a thorough eye exam.