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Dry Eye Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?|Medical Definition of Dry Eye Syndrome|Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome|Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome|Risk Factors of Dry Eye Syndrome|Diagnosis of Dry Eye Syndrome|Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome|Lifestyle Changes for Dry Eye Syndrome|Home Remedies for Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry Eye Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Dry Eye Syndrome?

Dry eye syndrome, also called as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, is a common problem that can happen to anybody. It occurs when the tears in your eyes aren’t able to provide proper lubrication, leading to dryness and often itchiness.

There are various reasons for this syndrome which are also treatable. In most cases, it is not a permanent condition. Dry eye syndrome can arise due to lifestyle changes, other health conditions, or an issue in the tear ducts.

These can be tackled with proper medications in the form of eye drops and ointments. Lifestyle modifications can also help you relieve from dry eye syndrome.

If you think that your eyes have become dry, itchy, or have a burning sensation, consult your doctor. Do not use any eye drop or ointment or pill before talking to an ophthalmologist.

Medical Definition of Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) is a condition of the tear film that happens due to tear deficiency or excessive tear evaporation. It causes damage to the interpalpebral ocular surface, the area that consists of the cornea and the conjunctiva (the area between the eyelids).

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome

If you have the syndrome, your eyes aren’t able to produce enough tears to lubricate or coat itself, an aspect important to maintain moisture. If your tear ducts are unable to provide this mix of oil, water, and mucus, it leaves your eyes dry, itchy, and sometimes with a burning sensation.

Symptoms of dry eye syndrome include:

  • Accumulation of mucus in or around your eyelids
  • Persistent stingy or burning sensation in the eyes
  • Consistent itchiness in the eyes
  • Redness in one eye or both the eyes
  • Constantly feeling there’s something in your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light: either yellow or white
  • Watery eyes
  • Not being able to wear contact lenses due to constant irritation in the eyes
  • Unable to drive at night
  • Blurred vision

These symptoms may occur together or in intervals. They also vary from one person to another. Therefore, it is essential to watch out for these. Consult your doctor if you experience the above-mentioned symptoms and do not use eye drops on anybody else’s recommendation.

Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome

Since this syndrome is caused due to inadequate tears, there are various reasons that can possibly lead to this stage. Though the reason can be different for different people. Therefore, what causes your dry eye syndrome also determines the course of your treatment. Do not start any eye drops or pills or ointments without consulting your doctor first.

Following are some causes of this condition:

  • Decreased tear production because of factors such as age, medical conditions like diabetes, lupus, etc., medications like antidepressants, laser eye surgery, or tear gland damage.
  • Tear evaporation because of environmental stimulants such as wind, smoke or air, blinking less, or eyelid problems.
  • Tear film problems can arise due to a disruption in any of the layers: oil, mucus, or water.
  • Allergic reactions because of pollution, pollen, dust, etc.
  • Wearing contact lenses for too long.
  • Sitting in front of the computer for a long period. This can entail less blinking since you’re concentrating on the screen.
  • Hormone replacement therapy

Risk Factors of Dry Eye Syndrome

Even though the dry eye syndrome can happen to anybody, there are factors that make you more vulnerable to it. They are:

  • Age: if you are older than 50, chances are you may be more prone to getting the dry eye syndrome. This is because your tear production decreases as you get older.
  • Gender: Women are more susceptible to the syndrome because of hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy, or menopause. The use of birth control pills can lead to this condition.
  • Dietary issues: A diet low in vitamin A or omega-3 fatty acids can make you more likely to get this eye condition. Vitamin A can be found in carrots, onions, broccoli, or other vegetables, and omega-3 can be found in fish.
  • Eye health: Compromised eye health in terms of wearing contact lens for too long or sitting in front of a screen for extended periods make your eyes sensitive to this condition.
  • Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions like lupus, Sjogren’s Syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, and vitamin A deficiency can increase the risk of dry eye syndrome in some people.

Diagnosis of Dry Eye Syndrome

Diagnosis of this syndrome can be done through the following three methods:

  1. Eye exam: All eye issues usually require a physical examination that can comprehend the problem at hand properly. This eye exam can help determine the possible factors contributing to dry eye syndrome.
  2. Schirmer test: To test the volume of your tears, your doctor will check and measure your tear production. This test will require tears accumulating on your lower eyelids being covered with blotting paper. The doctor will then measure how much of the blotting paper was soaked to check for adequate tear production.
  3. Quality of tears: Since the tear film has three layers – water, oil, and mucus, your doctor will check for tear evaporation. Sometimes, eye drops containing dyes are used to check the condition of your eyes.

It is necessary to get yourself checked from an ophthalmologist and not self-diagnose or medicate. This will ensure that nothing inappropriate goes inside the most sensitive part of your body.

Treatment for Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome can be diagnosed and treated easily. Though, if left untreated, it may lead to more serious conditions such as bacterial keratitis.

There are various methods used to treat this condition. They include:

  • Drugs to relieve inflammation in your eyelids. These can come in the form of eye drops, ointments, or even antibiotics depending on the cause for the condition.
  • Eye inserts that are placed in your lower eyelids. They eventually release a tear-producing substance. Though, these need to be checked for expiration dates and manufacturing.
  • Eye drops can be used to help cornea inflammation. These can be corticosteroids that can be recommended for short-term use.
  • Tear-producing drugs called cholinergic can help relieve this syndrome as well. They can come in the form of eye gels, pills, or eye drops.
  • Eyelid massage and therapy are some ancient practices used to activate your tear ducts again. These also helps increase blood circulation.
  • Your doctor may recommend closing your tear ducts so that you don’t lose tears more than necessary. Though this method is used in more severe cases.
  • Eye masks are another newer way to treat dry eye syndrome. These help unblock oil glands. The eye masks apply a warm compression, which aids freeing the oil glands.
  • Treatment of underlying conditions that may be causing dry eyes must be treated appropriately.

Different Approaches in Treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome

  • Acupuncture can be useful in treating this condition.
  • Castor oil eye drops are also known to reduce tear evaporation. Though, please confirm this with your doctor before using.

Lifestyle Changes for Dry Eye Syndrome

Some lifestyle changes that can help prevent dry eyes:

  • Reducing screen time.
  • Using neutral eye drops with your doctor’s consultation.
  • Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A.
  • Watching out for signs of the syndrome and getting it checked as soon as you notice anything unusual.
  • Refraining from putting shower gels or soaps harshly over your eyes.
  • Going for regular eye checkups.
  • Following doctor’s advice, taking treatment and regular monitoring of conditions that may be causing dry eyes.

Home Remedies for Dry Eye Syndrome

If you wish to treat this condition at home, the following tips can help:

  • Apply a warm, clean cloth on your eyes. The gentle compression can help massage the area and unclog oil glands.
  • Use eye drops with minimum or no preservatives.
  • Use eye ointments before bedtimes as they can otherwise interfere with your vision during other times.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Written by Nikita Updated 04/06/2021
Medically reviewed by डॉ. स्नेहल सिंह
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