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Dry eyes

Why do my eyes feel dry? Causes, symptoms, treatments.

Dry Eye Syndrome, otherwise simply known as 'dry eyes', is a common complaint today as a result of air conditioning, contact lenses or staring at a computer for too long. Morag Lindsay, our eye health advisor, explores the causes, additional symptoms and treatments of dry eyes.

An introduction to dry eyes

Dry eyes occur when there are not enough tears to moisten, lubricate and protect your eyes. Your tear glands constantly produce small amounts of tears and when you blink, these are ‘spread’ over the surface of your eyeball.

For healthy eyes, a layer of tears should always cover your eyes, although you probably won’t notice this until the tears spill out of your eye when you laugh or cry.

If you are suffering from dry eyes, even by blinking frequently you will be unable to create enough tears to moisten your eyes.

What are the causes of dry eyes?

There are many causes of dry eyes. Broadly speaking, the causes can be split into two main categories: tear deficient and evaporative.

Tear deficient dry eyes is when your eye is unable to produce enough tears. This means that the layer of tears over the eye breaks up, leaving patches on the surface of the eye which are not covered.

Generally, as age increases, the production of tears decreases. This cause of dry eyes is also common among postmenopausal women. There are some diseases such as rheumatoid conditions which can trigger tear deficient dry eyes.

Evaporative dry eyes is when a sufficient amount of tears is created, but what is produced evaporates quickly, so the surface of the eye cannot be kept moist. This can arise from spending too much time focusing on up-close objects such as a computer screen.

The reason for this is that the number of times you blink decreases when an object is close, reducing the flow of tears covering the eyes. Environmental factors, such as air conditioning, contact lenses or high altitudes can also lead to tears evaporating more quickly than normal.

Tear evaporative dry eyes can also be associated with health conditions such as a Vitamin A or Vitamin D deficiency.

What are the symptoms of dry eyes?

In general, people with dry eyes describe their condition simply as dry eyes. However, there might be other associated symptoms such as:

What are the treatments for dry eyes?

Certain measures can be taken to relieve the discomfort brought about by dry eyes. You should try to limit your exposure to factors which aggravate the symptoms. For example, avoid air conditioning or reduce the time you spend using a computer.

If your dry eyes are a result of an underlying health condition, then you must consult your doctor.

Most people suffering from dry eyes find relief by using eye drops containing lubricants. A.Vogel Eye Drops contain Euphrasia, a plant also known as Eyebright because of its history treating eye problems that dates back to the 14th Century.

When should I go to the doctor with dry eyes?

Most people suffering from dry eyes find that their symptoms come and go without the need of any medical attention. However, there are certain circumstances when it will be advisable to visit a doctor if:

  • Your dry eyes are unexplained or if you are worried about your condition
  • You find that your vision is affected
  • You think that your dry eyes may be the result of another medical condition.

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