Read more about What Causes Dry Eyes?

Dry eyes affect approximately 16.4 million Americans (about 6.8% of the adult population), although some estimates show that as much as 30% of the adult population has dry eye.

Dry eyes is a multifactorial disease that affects the front surface of the eye. It occurs when there is either insufficient tear production or there is a problem with the outermost oil layer of the tears, causing your tears to evaporate more quickly and causing tear film instability.

What are the different risk factors for dry eyes?

There can be various different causes for dry eyes such as:

  • Increase in age
  • Genetics
  • Ethnicity
  • People going through hormone changes, especially older women going through menopause, are more likely to develop dry eye symptoms. As a result, the hormones present on the front surface of your eye can become imbalanced and disrupted, causing your tear film to become unstable and causing your eyes to be dry.

What environmental factors can cause dry eyes?

There's also various different environmental factors that can cause you to get dry eyes such as:

  • Heater - Heaters that are set to high temperatures during the winter can really dry out the air which can cause dry eyes. It is therefore helpful to use a humidifier if you suffer from dry eyes.
  • Exposure to air - Air conditioners at work or fans blowing directly into your face can also aggravate your symptoms of dry eyes.
  • Windy weather - When you go outside in windy conditions, it can cause excessive tearing, which is because your eyes are dry, so wearing proper eye protection is also important.
  • Smoke from cigarette - Cigarette smoke can lead to dry eyes if you are surrounded by it.
  • Digital eye strain - You may also experience symptoms of dry eyes if you spend long periods of time on the computer. A prolonged period of time spent staring at a computer or digital device causes you to blink less, which leaves the front surface of your eyes less lubricated because you don't blink as often. Therefore, this can lead to dry eye symptoms. Learn more about digital eye strain.
  • Makeup - Dry eyes can also be caused by cosmetics or how you apply your eye makeup. In particular, if you wear eyeliner on the inside of your eyelid margins, it can clog up your oil glands, increasing and exacerbating your symptoms of dry eyes.
  • Contact lens - Your risk of getting dry eyes can also be increased if you wear contact lenses for a prolonged period of time, if you abuse your contacts where you wear them longer than you are supposed to or if you don't maintain proper contact lens hygiene.
  • Medications - There are many different medications that can increase your symptoms of dry eyes, such as anti acne medicine and antihistamines.

What can you do to avoid dry eyes?

Several steps can be taken to alleviate dry eye symptoms, such as:

20-20-20 Rule

If you spend a lot of time in front of the computer, you should follow the 20-20-20 rule. This means every 20 minutes look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. That means taking breaks from your digital devices. If you want to reduce your symptoms of dry eyes, you should learn to blink more frequently and more fully.

Maintain proper contact lens hygiene

Maintaining proper contact lens hygiene is extremely important. You can also ask your eye doctor for a thorough evaluation of your contact lenses, so you can figure out which brand will work best for you, since certain brands have a higher oxygen permeability and are better at reducing dry eye symptoms.

Managing medication

In the event that you experience dry eyes as a result of certain medications, you should never self-discontinue them. It is always a good idea to talk to your general physician first.

Treat the underlying cause of your dry eye

Since there are so many potential causes of your symptoms it is important to undergo a dry eye evaluation where the eye doctor will assess what is causing your symptoms. In some cases it may be as simple as modifying your behaviour such as taking breaks when using a computer or changing medications, however in many cases there may be an underlying cause to your symptoms. One of the most common causes is Meibomian Gland Dysfunction (MGD for short), this is a condition where the oil glands that are found in your eyelids are clogged and do not produce enough oil to protect your tear film from evaporation. If our eye doctor finds that your glands are not functioning properly they will recommend treatment which involves heating the oil glands and squeezing out the oil to free up your clogged glands. Another potential cause is blepharitis, which can be treated through the use of medicated wipes and other treatment modalities.
What is important to note is that while most dry eye sufferers will have similar symptoms, it is important to have an evaluation by an eye doctor that specializes in dry eye treatment. That will ensure that you are addressing the cause and not just the symptoms.

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