Dry Eyes: Causes and Prevention
Under normal conditions, the structure of our eyes, the cornea, and the conjunctiva are hydrated. The so-called base tear made up of water, proteins, and lipids keeps them permanently hydrated. The reflex tear, on the other hand, contains mostly water and is the one that is produced in response to emotions, when a foreign body like a mosquito, dust, etc., enters the eye or when it comes into contact with some environmental tear substance.
When there is a deficit of basic tears, essential for the correct hydration of the eye, it is called dry eye syndrome. The lacrimal glands are the producers of the liquid that the eye needs to be cleaned by the eyelids, which distribute the tear over the surface and redirect it towards the exit holes, lacrimal points, the beginning of the drainage pathway.
In addition to the lack of a base tear, a pathology of the eyelids that prevents them from carrying out their cleaning function, or an obstruction of the tear evacuation pathways can prevent correct ocular hydration. In this case, the accumulation of water that cannot drain through the nose accumulates in the eye, causing tearing.
The dry eye syndrome can be a primary affectation when it responds to a problem of the eye itself or secondary if it is associated with alterations of other organs, rheumatic, dermatological diseases, alterations of salivary secretion, or internal organs.
Although epidemiological studies on ocular dryness cannot be extrapolated from one population to another, globally, the prevalence figures range between 7 and 33% of the general population. It is estimated that in our environment, 25% of patients who consult an ophthalmologist present some sign or symptom in relation to dry eyes, a clearly growing public health problem.
Age, sex (more in women and even more if they have used oral contraceptives), smoking, environments with inadequate temperature, high or low, low humidity, the use of screens and sunglasses contact, ocular surface surgeries, and certain medications are risk factors for dry eyes.
A warning of it can be discomfort in the eyes, the sensation of having a foreign body in the eye, fatigue, and eye irritation. Contact lens wearers may not pick up the alerts quickly, as the use of contact lenses decreases the sensitivity of the cornea significantly. In more advanced cases, ulcerations of the ocular surface, affectation of the transparency of the cornea and decreased vision temporarily or permanently may occur.
Causes of dry eyes
- Over the years, our eye health has lost its quality, which is why aging is one of the most common causes of dry eyes.
- Use of screens; Spending many hours staring at a computer, mobile, or tablet screen also considerably affects the occurrence of this eye disorder.
- Stressful situations can also cause dry eyes.
- Contact lenses are one of the most popular causes of dry eyes.
- Pollution, wind, and other environmental factors such as spending long hours in environments with poor lighting, low humidity, poor ventilation, heating.
- Surgical operations can cause disorders in the tear ducts and therefore affect dry eyes.
How to combat dry eyes
Dry eye is unpleasant and can be painful, dry eye syndrome is a common disorder that occurs when the eye does not make the right amount of tears or when they are not of sufficient quality to keep the eyes hydrated and without discomfort.
Dry eyes can affect anyone, although it is more common among women, especially after menopause, or in people who live in large cities where air pollution levels are higher. Some studies also show that in higher altitude areas, this condition is more common. Below are some tips by JLR eye hospital –
Tips to combat dry eyes
The use of artificial tears, which can be purchased without a prescription. They can usually be administered as many times as necessary (although administration schedules for each type of drop should be checked prior to administration). Even so, if it is expected to be used more frequently than once every two hours, the use of artificial tears without preservatives is preferable.
The application of lubricating gels is somewhat thicker than artificial tears. However, being thicker they can blur vision, so it is recommended to apply them at bedtime.
Avoid air movements, whether they are natural from the outside environment, such as the wind, or those caused by devices such as fans or hair dryers, since they can dry out the eyes more. If the agent that causes it is external and cannot be avoided, it is recommended to wear wrap-around sunglasses that protect the eyes.
The use of humidifiers. Air conditioners and heating can cause more dryness, so the use of humidifiers can reduce the dryness of the environment and alleviate some of the symptoms.
Let the eyes rest. If reading or watching television aggravates the symptoms of dryness, take breaks to rest your eyes and blink more frequently to replenish lost moisture.
Avoid tobacco smoke. The reasons to stay away from tobacco are countless, and one of them is that it can irritate dry eyes and, in fact, is one of the factors that increase the risk of this condition.
The application of soap to the eyes and the gentle cleansing of the eyelids with specific soaps can help release the oil that accumulates in the glands of the eyelids, which can improve the quality of tears. You have to rinse the soap completely after cleaning.
Including omega-3 fatty acid supplements in the diet can relieve the symptoms of dry eyes in some cases. This component can be found naturally in fish oils (salmon, sardines, anchovies) and in flax seeds. Check with your ophthalmologist to find out if it would be advisable to take omega-3 fatty acid supplements and in what form and dose.
Tear substitutes (artificial or natural), drugs to reduce possible inflammation, but also a diet rich in vitamins and minerals (fresh fruits and vegetables) and avoid alcohol, especially high-grade alcohol, because it dehydrates the body a lot. This and occlusion of the tear drainage ducts are the most common treatments for dry eyes.
To prevent it, it will help to be well hydrated, drinking water, avoiding too high or low temperatures or lack of humidity, with humidifiers at home if necessary, and eventual ophthalmological check-ups if contact lenses are used. In the face of excessive exposure to screens, it is necessary to guarantee the ideal frequency of blinking (every 10 or 15 seconds) and alternate the fixation of the view between the screen and a distant point.
Name- Animesh Rai
Bio- Animesh Rai is a postgraduate in health and hospital management from the Indian Institute of Health Management Research, currently working as a Deputy Administrator at the Association for the Prevention of Blindness, a non-profit society, operating 200-bedded JL Rohatgi Memorial Eye Hospital. Hospital also has a training institute that offers full-time optometry courses in Kanpur.