Despite the name, dry eye syndrome causes more than just dry eyes. Dry eye syndrome can lead to red eyes, blurry vision, a burning or scratchy sensation, and increased sensitivity to light.
Because the underlying cause of your dry eye syndrome shapes your treatment, our experts here at Maryland Eye Care Center encourage you to visit us in Silver Spring or Hyattsville, Maryland, so we can examine your eyes and put you on the path to relief.
Here are four causes of dry eyes and how to find relief.
1. Your eyes don’t produce enough tears
Tears are made of oil, water, and mucus. There are three types of tears:
- Emotional tears result from intense emotions, such as happiness and sadness
- Basal tears lubricate the eyes and supply nutrients to their outer structures
- Reflex tears flush out foreign particles, such as dust or a stray eyelash, from the eyes
Tears are essential for the health of your eyes, but if the lacrimal glands in your eyes don’t produce enough tears or if your tears evaporate too quickly, you’re left with dry eyes.
2. You have meibomian gland dysfunction
The meibomian glands in your eyelids produce oil that mixes with the water in your tears to keep them from evaporating too quickly. If your meibomian gland isn’t working quite right, you may develop dry eyes.
3. You’re affected by environmental factors
Hot, dry air can make your eyes feel extra dry. That is true when the heat is on in your home or the air is blasting in your car. Looking at your computer screen for extended hours each day can also contribute to eye fatigue and dry eyes.
When you use a computer for prolonged periods, you don’t blink as often. Researchers note that computer strain and computer usage are particularly hard on those who have dry eye syndrome due to tear evaporation.
4. You have an underlying medical condition
Certain medical conditions, especially autoimmune conditions, can contribute to dry eye syndrome. Thyroid hormone imbalances and other endocrine disorders are linked to dry eyes.
Interestingly, psychological and neurological conditions can also cause dry eyes. According to a 2020 study, researchers found that those with depression had an increased risk of dry eyes and that, conversely, dry eye syndrome exacerbated the symptoms of depression.
Certain types of eye surgery and some medications can also cause dry eyes.
Finding relief from dry eye syndrome
Here at Maryland Eye Care Center, we’re experts at diagnosing and treating dry eyes. To get you the relief you need, we first conduct tests to determine the severity of your symptoms and whether you have any corneal damage due to dryness.
Depending on the cause and severity of your dry eye symptoms, your treatment plan may include:
Artificial tears are special eye drops that lubricate your eyes. There are over-the-counter versions, but we offer preservative-free Oasis TEARS® to lubricate the surface of your eyes and eliminate the gritty, dry sensation.
These tiny inserts in your tear ducts stop your natural tears from draining to keep your eyes lubricated. Depending on your needs, we can use plugs that dissolve over time or longer-lasting plugs that your doctor removes.
If clogged tear ducts are causing your dry eyes, try a warm compress on your eyes. To make a warm compress, wet a clean cloth in warm (not hot) water. Lie down and place the damp cloth over your eyes. The warmth soothes your eyes and helps eliminate the clogged material.
If environmental triggers are making your symptoms worse, consider:
- Running a humidifier to boost the humidity in your home (typically during winter)
- Wearing glasses to give your eyes a break from your contact lenses
- Switching to a new brand of contacts (some are more breathable than others)
We also encourage you to practice the 20-20-20 rule to combat eye fatigue when you’re using the computer. Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at something 20 feet away.
To get relief from your dry eyes, give us a call at one of our convenient locations or schedule your visit online.